Will late deliveries mess up Christmas?
Retailers know two things for certain. The first is that shoppers are going to place online orders up until the last minute for Christmas. The second is that any orders not delivered on time will be blamed on the retailer.
According to a CNBC report, retailers are setting earlier order deadlines this year for customers who want to take advantage of free standard shipping. Data from StellaService shows that Dec. 19 is the deadline being used by most retailers compared to Dec. 21 last year. Merchants are setting earlier deadlines to give themselves a hedge against a wave of late orders. Christmas falling on a Monday this year also means packages sent via standard shipping will need to be delivered by Saturday, Dec. 23.
But earlier deadlines may not be enough to guarantee that packages get to consumers in time. Carriers are expected to deliver a record number of packages and, even though UPS and others have staffed up, the sheer volume of orders has many warning of delays.
UPS recently issued a warning that deliveries were being delayed after volume exceeded expectations during Cyber Week. The carrier expects to deliver 750 million packages this holiday season, up five percent over last year. The Washington Post, citing ShipMatrix, reported that 89 percent of UPS Express packages were delivered on time between Nov. 27 and Dec. 2. UPS’s rival, FedEx, delivered 99 percent on time during the same period.
FedEx is encouraging customers to pick packages up at Walgreens and other “hold” locations as part of its delivery strategy. The service expects to make a record 317 million shipments during the holidays, a 12 percent jump from 2016.
Smaller carriers are also facing challenges. Pilots at Atlas Air Worldwide, which serves Amazon.com, claim that orders from the e-tailer are being delayed and are likely to worsen as the holiday nears. The company disputes assertions by a pilots’ union that it is flying understaffed.
Sriram Sridhar, chief executive of LateShipment.com, told The Washington Post that retailers should be up front with customers if shipments are likely to be delayed.
“The holiday rush typically translates into an automatic reduction in on-time deliveries,” he said. “If merchants aren’t proactive, it’s an almost guaranteed way of losing that customer.”
- Retailers brace for surge in online orders by drawing shipping deadlines earlier – CNBC
- UPS and others warn that holiday deliveries are already falling behind – The Washington Post
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect that the percentage of late deliveries will be higher this year than during past holidays? What should retailers do if they expect delays? Will carriers ultimately find a way to keep pace with the growth of online retail?