NEW YORK, NY, October 29 (Reuters) – Shoppers hoping to shop for holiday gifts online this year may need to prepare well in advance for their purchases. Many retailers set shorter deadlines for goods ordered online to reach customers before Christmas.
Frères Branchiaux Candle Press co-founder Celena Gill has designated November 30 as the last day for customers to place their orders if they want the scented soy candles to arrive before Christmas. “We have already seen a delay in shipments this month and expect it to be worse as Christmas Day approaches,” said Gill. She declined to comment on last year’s deadline.
State Bags, a New York-based luggage company, is halting the Christmas expedition three days earlier than last year’s deadline of December 18. She won’t be offering her annual two-day vacation shipping promotion this year due to supply chain issues, founder Jacqueline Tatelman said.
FedEx (FDX.N) and United States Postal Service have set ground shipping times for December 15, identical to delivery times last year – although there is still a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. UPS (UPS.N) provides estimated delivery times on its website based on time, location and shipping services.
By some estimates, there could be nearly 5 million more packages per day that delivery drivers cannot handle during peak season, when unit volumes can double. And, FedEx has previously reported issues for its ground unit, which processed more than 9.3 million packages per day for customers including Walmart (WMT.N) in the last quarter. In September, the Memphis-based company warned that issues with hiring and retaining employees were slowing deliveries.
UPS, the world’s largest parcel delivery company, is abandoning low-profit customers – a move that could hit vulnerable retailers. On the flip side, UPS will be making nationwide deliveries on Saturday this year and taking several other steps to minimize “chaos costs” and improve on-time service, UPS general manager Carol Tome said.
Retailers typically use delivery deadlines as a competitive differentiator, and normally push them as far as possible to attract last-minute shoppers. But this strategy carries additional risks this year, especially for smaller stores vulnerable to bad customer reviews. And, in a year marked by hurricanes and other severe storms, there is little wiggle room for other unforeseen disruptions due to factors such as bad winter weather.
But this year, retailers large and small are encouraging customers to buy early to shift demand and facilitate supply chain safeguards. Some U.S. shoppers are panicking that supply chain grunts spill over to door-to-door delivery of Christmas gifts, Tome said in a conference call with analysts Tuesday.
“In fact, some believe 50% of holiday shopping will be complete by Cyber Monday,” Tome said. “Some of our customers are actually pulling off promotions,” she said, referring to previous Christmas marketing messages from retailers that have resulted in increased demand.
For example, UPS started working with Amazon.com (AMZN.O), its largest customer, several months ago. Nonetheless, it will reapply volume limits and fail to collect all requested packages if an unexpected volume threatens to flood its system – a move that has hit retailers like Gap (GPS.N), Macy’s (MN) and Nike. (NKE.N) last year. .
Shopify (SHOP.TO) encourages its merchants to update their shipping policy pages to highlight delays and lower expectations. The company also suggests that merchants offer Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales earlier and incorporate local delivery options and curbside pickup for physical merchants.
Meanwhile, Etsy (ETSY.O) has improved its delivery date estimates to promote sales and reduce uncertainty for its community of sellers of homemade or vintage products. “Almost every item from a US seller will include an estimated delivery date during the holiday season,” Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said in a blog post.
Major retailers including Walmart, Target (TGT.N), Amazon, Macy’s and Best Buy (BBY.N) haven’t announced their final delivery deadlines, but they are offering options to reduce stress on the system. They offer early and extended Black Friday deals and encourage customers to use concert delivery services like DoorDash and Shipt or “buy online, pick up in store” options.
Last year, Walmart announced its mid-December delivery times, while Amazon notified customers in late November that eligible products were available for two-day and one-day shipping on December 23 and Christmas Eve.
(This story corrects the company name in paragraph 3 for State Bags from State)
Reporting by Arriana McLymore in New York, Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles. Additional reporting by Jeffery Dastin in Palo Alto, California; Editing by Steve Orlofsky
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