Revised and updated January 4, 2020.
For a while it looked like the rise of electronic communication might wreck the chains of mailing centers. After all, who needs to rent a mailbox in the 21st century? But everyone is still shipping packages, and these chains have further reinvented themselves into small business centers with all kinds of services. This is why the pack-and-ship franchise industry is still worth a healthy $2 billion. Entrepreneurs who want to get a piece of this action have 10 great options to examine on this list of the top 10 postal, mailbox, and business center franchises of 2020.
Most of these chains got their start in the 1980s when transportation was deregulated, which paved the way for all the shipping companies we know today – DHL, UPS, FedEx, and so on. The mailing centers of yesteryear are now shipping centers to help people properly pack up all kinds of things they need sent anywhere and everywhere.
But as much or even more than shipping services, many of the chains have become full-fledged small business centers with a wide range of services such as document printing and binding, business cards, posters, brochures, signs, office supplies, and much more. With so many people starting their own small businesses, these chains can play a vital role in helping them get off to a good professional start.
It’s worth noting that six of the chains on this list are all owned by one company – Annex Brands. Here are the 10 best postal, mailbox, and business center franchises of 2020:
1. The UPS Store
The UPS Store ships upwards of 750 million packages during the holiday season. This company started out as Mail Boxes Etc. back in the early 1980s. It wasn’t until 2001 that UPS bought the company and started rebranding all locations as The UPS Store. The rest, as they say, is history.
This chain is the clear leader of the industry. Although the core of the business is discounted UPS-direct shipping (20% lower on average), there are many more services available to consumers and small business owners.
Consumers can take advantage of faxing, computer access, notary services, passport and ID photos, shredding, office and mailing supplies, and design services. Small business owners can also take advantage of all of that, along with accounting and bookkeeping, business management, communications, direct mail, financial services, house accounts, human resources, IT support, marketing, and more. And you can still rent mailboxes as well.
Founded in 1980 and franchising since then, the number of locations has grown steadily in recent years from 4,785 in 2009 to the current total of 5,166 (an increase of 95 from the previous year’s total of 5,071), none of which are company-owned and 347 of which are located outside the US.
2. PostNet Neighborhood Business Centers
PostNet Neighborhood Business Centers offers a broad array of printing, shipping, and design services. In addition to mailbox rentals, customers ship packages by whatever carrier they desire, including USPS, DHL, FedEx, and UPS.
It makes a bigger deal, however, out of its design and printing services, including business stationery, logo design, marketing materials, personal projects and gifts, brochures, flyers, posters, signs, banners, invitations, business cards, blueprints, calendars, canvas prints and wraps, postcards, yard signs, door hangers, labels and stickers, passport photos, and more. Small businesses can get notary public services, secure shredding, vehicle wraps, binding and finishing, fax and scan, virtual mail, and much more.
Founded in 1985 and franchising since 1993, the number of locations declined for several years but is now growing again to the current total of 675 (an increase of 14 from the previous year’s total of 661), none of which are company-owned and 468 of which are located outside the US.
3. Pak Mail
Pak Mail offers a full range of packing and shipping services, including crating and custom packing for unique items. Estimates are provided when needed. It also provides commercial and industrial freight services. Other available services for consumers and small businesses include package receiving, mail forwarding, copying/printing/faxing, electronic mail notification, notary services, document shredding, office supplies, and mailbox rentals.
This chain is one of seven similar franchise brands all owned by Annex Brands. Founded in 1983 and franchising since 1984, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 474 in 2008 to the current total of 376 (seven less than the previous year’s total of 383), only one of which is company-owned and 176 of which are located outside the US.
PostalAnnex+ compares pricing between USPS, FedEx, and UPS for each package a customer wants to ship so they can have the lowest price of the three. Freight shipping services are also available, whether by land, air, or sea. Additional services include duplicate key cutting, greeting cards, rubber stamps, office supplies, mailbox rentals, printing/copying, document binding, laminating, notary services, faxing, stationery, website/eCommerce services, document scanning, and passport photos.
This chain is also owned by Annex Brands. Founded in 1985 and franchising since 1986, the number of locations has been on the rise in recent years from 260 in 2010 to the current total of 285, none of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
5. Navis Pack and Ship
Navis Pack and Ship specializes in custom packing and expert shipping. Unlike the other companies on this list, it does not offer other services – it is solely focused on packing and shipping. It can handle antiques, computers/electronics, auction items, art, equipment, freight, furniture, or anything else that needs to be properly packed and shipped. The company offers packing, crating, shipping, small moves, pickup and delivery, white glove delivery, and international shipping from both the US and Canada.
This chain is another of the seven owned by Annex Brands. Founded in 2000 and franchising since then, the number of locations has risen only slightly in recent years from 50 in 2012 to the current total of 52 (same as the previous year), none of which are company-owned and four of which are located outside the US (in Canada).
6. AIM Mail Centers
AIM Mail Centers have a similar array of services as the other companies on this list, including office services (mailbox rentals, notary, passport photos, keys, laminating, shredding, rubber stamps, and promo products), copy/print/fax services (B&W copies, color copies, printing services, faxing, and document uploads), and pack and ship services (with price comparisons between FedEx, UPS, and USPS, shipping materials, freight services, and postal services).
AIM is another Annex Brands franchise. Founded in 1985 and franchising since 1989, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 101 in 2008 to the current total of 47 (one less than the previous year), none of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
7. Postal Connections
Postal Connections has a unique service offering that makes it different from every other company on this list: the iSold It eBay program. It will accept items from customers and sell these online for them, collecting a sales fee when the item sells. It mostly sells on eBay, but could also use other platforms such as Amazon or Craigslist. It handles everything from start to finish, researching what a good price would be based on the item and its condition, listing it, and then packing and shipping it when it sells.
Other core services include packing/shipping (DHL, UPS, FedEx, USPS), including overnight shipping when needed, packing supplies, freight services, stamps, printing/copying, scanning and storage of documents, public computer access, mailbox rental, faxing (sending and receiving), office supplies, passport photos, and notarizing documents.
Founded in 1985 and franchising since 1995, the number of locations has declined from a high of 72 in 2008 to the current total of 40 (down by three from the previous year), none of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
8. Safe Ship
Safe Ship can send anything pretty much anywhere in the world, no matter the size or shape. Each location has its own BoxMakerPRO machine, developed and built by the company, that can make any size custom box, at any cardboard thickness, for any need. These boxes are as strong as wood crates but are made of cardboard.
Additional offerings include mailing supplies, office supplies, notary services, incoming and outgoing fax service, mailboxes, mail forwarding, color copies, internet downloading and printing, a professional printshop, virtual mail, and more.
Founded in 1988 and franchising since 2008, the number of locations grew each year through 2017 when it reached 49 locations, but that number has now declined to the current total of 40, none of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
9. Handle with Care Packaging Store
Handle with Care Packaging Store, as the name implies, emphasizes careful handling of customers’ items to be packed properly so they arrive safely at their final destination, which could be nearly anywhere in the world. The list of items it can handle is long and includes just about anything you can think of.
Packing and shipping services include white glove delivery, crating, trade show logistics, custom packaging, warehousing, freight insurance, on-site packing, international shipping, long-term storage, moving supplies, fulfillment services, ocean shipping, custom foam, packaging supplies, senior downsizing, and more. Unlike other companies on this list, it does not offer a wide range of other small business services.
Founded in 1980 in Denver, Colorado and franchising since 1984, the number of locations has been steadily declining in recent years from 61 in 2008 to the current total of 26 (two less than the previous year), none of which are company-owned and all of which are franchised in the US.
10. Parcel Plus
Parcel Plus has four categories of services: pack and ship (UPS, FedEx, USPS, shipping and mailing supplies, crating and freight shipping); copy/print/fax (including business cards, stationery, posters, banners, A-frame sidewalk signs, postcards, brochures, flyers, website design, and more); office services (mailbox rental, notary public, key duplication, passport photos); and ParcelPlus Online – My Digital Doorman (notifications and information about incoming mail and packages) and My Order Desk (online printing orders based on the electronic files the customer uploads with online proofing).
Parcel Plus is another of the seven similar franchise concepts all owned by Annex Brands. Founded in 1986 and franchising since 1988, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 67 in 2008 to the current total of 22 (same as last year), none of which are company-owned and all of which are franchised in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.