Six fewer shipping days till Christmas puts pressure on UPS, FedEx and USPS

Nova Safo Dec 5, 2019
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UPS has sent emails and social media messages about shipping deadlines. Above, a UPS worker sorts packages in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Six fewer shipping days till Christmas puts pressure on UPS, FedEx and USPS

Nova Safo Dec 5, 2019
UPS has sent emails and social media messages about shipping deadlines. Above, a UPS worker sorts packages in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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At a UPS Store location in Burbank, California, the holiday rush has not yet started. A few customers meandered in on a recent December morning. A couple of them were sending letters, another was returning an Amazon package. (The UPS Store has a deal with Amazon to accept customer returns.)

“It’s still not in the pit of Christmas, yet,” said Emily Jandris, an employee at the store. Nevertheless, Jandris has noticed that there’s been an uptick in the number of packages the store is handling — and that is only going to intensify.

Holiday shoppers have six fewer days to get their Christmas gifts to their destinations this holiday season, because Thanksgiving came at its latest-possible point in November. 

That has put UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service on alert. They are reminding consumers to order their online gifts or ship their packages as far in advance as possible.

UPS and USPS also have been publicizing the final dates for guaranteed arrival by Christmas. 

“Consumers want it there on time,” said Shlomo Rackliff, owner of the Burbank UPS Store franchise. “They do all throughout the year, but more importantly right now.”

Rackliff has had a sign on his counter since mid-November that lists Christmas shipping deadlines.

“Generally, the majority of the public waits until the last minute. And now, with one less week, we’re planning and expecting a bigger rush than normal,” Rackliff said.

UPS and its subsidiary, The UPS Store, also have sent emails and social media messages about shipping deadlines.

The U.S. Postal Service has been getting out the word, too, according to spokesperson Kim Frum. 

“We’ve also been sending out a direct-mail campaign to more than 100 million homes,” she said. The mailings, which are sent out every year, “should have been received a little before Thanksgiving or by Thanksgiving.”

Each of the big shippers has forecast that they will move approximately 30 million parcels a day at the peak of the holiday season, just before Christmas. For USPS, that translates to 800 million packages — almost a sixth of its annual total. 

New York University professor Arun Sundararajan, who studies how technologies transform business, said shippers and online retailers are feeling increased pressure to deliver quickly. 

“A lot of the expectations of consumers regarding speed of shipping have been driven by Amazon,” Sundararajan said. “And for a smaller retailers, keeping up with that kind of expectation is incredibly hard.”

Frum said USPS has invested in extra carriers and new equipment, such as scanners, to deal with the volume. UPS has opened six new automated “super hubs” in the last two years, increasing sorting capacity by 400,000 pieces per hour. FedEx said it has added new handling equipment in more than 30 FedEx Ground locations. 

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