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Unlike last year, holiday shipping’s running pretty smoothly — at least, so far

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A FedEx worker makes deliveries on December 06, 2021 in New York City.

USPS and private shipping companies appear to be handling holiday shipping better than last year. Above, a FedEx worker makes deliveries in New York City. Spencer Platt via Getty Images

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If you still have holiday gifts to ship, you’re almost out of time. According to the U.S. Postal Service, if you want any first-class packages to arrive by the 25th of December, you need to get them in the mail by the end of this week.

USPS and private shipping companies have urged customers to send gifts early this year to avoid a repeat of last year’s bottlenecks and delays. That advice, along with some other adaptations, seems to have made a difference.

Toward the end of 2020, Katie Stacks’ leather goods company, Stitch & Rivet, saw a lot more online orders than usual. 

“When you compounded that with the pretty serious delays we were seeing, it was really stressful,” she said.

To avoid shipping delays this year, Stack encouraged her customers to do their holiday shopping early. But even people who didn’t listen to her and placed orders in December are seeing them arrive on time. 

“So far this year — and I’m gonna knock on wood when we’re done with this interview — things seem to be arriving in a reasonable time frame,” Stacks said.

Last year’s delays were caused by COVID-19 outbreaks at shipping facilities, a delivery worker shortage and a massive spike in online shopping during the pandemic. 

“It really changed consumer behavior,” said Matt Bohn with the consulting firm Shipware. Bohn said the shipping industry has been adapting to that. “It’s mostly investments in improving their network efficiencies to adapt to the new consumer sentiment.”

Things like new distribution centers and improved tracking technology. And when logistical issues do arise, the postal service and private shipping companies are better equipped to work around them, according to Dale Rogers, a professor of supply chain management at Arizona State University.

“We’re still in a pandemic, and of course there’s disruptions. But the last mile part of e-commerce has been much smoother than expected,” he said.

If your orders are delayed, Rogers said the problem is probably further up the supply chain.

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