As expected, the two biggest shopping days of the year – Black Friday and Cyber Monday – smashed all previous records. While it was no surprise, the sheer volume of orders on these two days means that carriers will be even more inundated than usual come Christmas.
This comes on the heels of a year that has been marked with historic rises in shipping costs and a slew of other pressures that have affected shipping.
Cyber Monday and Black Friday (and beyond) by the Numbers
According to Adobe Systems, which tracks online shopping activity, $8 billion was spent by shoppers on Cyber Monday this year – a nearly 20% increase from the previous year. On Black Friday, a day in which shoppers traditionally flood brick and mortar stores to take advantage of huge sales, online sales were up nearly 24%.
Both of these are staggering statistics, but another trend appeared this year that hasn’t been seen previously – a spike in online shopping prior to Thanksgiving.
In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, online shopping spend increased 32% while spending on Thanksgiving itself rose 28%.
Implications for Shipping
Generally speaking, shoppers who purchase items at the end of November to mid-December expect their orders to arrive by Christmas. This has historically put huge pressure on shippers and carriers, resulting in very bad press when deliveries are not made on time.
This year’s interesting phenomenon of peak shopping occurring in a more spread out fashion rather than exclusively on Black Friday and Cyber Monday may mean some much-needed relief for carriers, as it spreads out the demand over a longer period of time.
However, Cyber Monday and Black Friday still broke records and their effect on carriers in the month of December will be significant. The Holiday Season has, for the last half-decade, proved to be a heavy burden for carriers; projecting demand has been a particularly difficult task.
2017 is a perfect example.
By mid-December of that year, carriers were already falling behind. It wasn’t due to a lack of planning by shippers and carriers, either. In 2017, UPS hired an additional 100,000 seasonal employees, while FedEx brought on 50,000.
In addition, carriers put a major focus on their network capacities. Yet, packages still arrived late – and customers were not pleased.
What to Expect This Year
Major carriers are not taking any chances this year, and many are making huge investments in both manpower and infrastructure to prepare for the peak season.
UPS, for example, added 6 new Boeing aircraft to its fleet this year. In addition, they have been making huge investments in its sorting facility. Most importantly, UPS opened a new sorting hub in Atlanta – the second largest such facility in the country.
Similar to last year, UPS announced this fall that it would be hiring 100,000 seasonal workers for the holiday season.
FedEx, for its part, hired 55,000 seasonal employees – up from the 50,000 they hired the previous year.
Will these preparations be enough? Early indications do look good. However, history tells us that preparation and planning are usually not enough. Given the strong economy, record employment, historically high consumer confidence, it is highly likely that carriers will be under more pressure than ever.
In order to mitigate, as much as possible, on-time delivery issues, shippers should always make clear the deadlines listed by carriers for getting items to their destinations by December 24th-25th.
Below are the listed deadlines for major shippers within the United States.
- First-Class Mail Service®: December 20th
- Priority Mail Service®: December 20th
- Priority Mail Express® Service: December 22nd
- USPS Retail Ground®: December 14th
For more on USPS shipping deadlines, click here.
- UPS Next Day Air: December 22nd
- UPS 2nd Day Air & 2nd Day Air AM: December 20th
- UPS 3 Day Select: December 18th
- UPS Ground: December 14th
For more information on UPS shipping deadlines, click here.
- FedEx SameDay® City Direct: December 25th
- FedEx SameDay® City Priority: December 25th
- FedEx SameDay®: December 25th
- FedEx First Overnight®: December 21st
- FedEx Standard Overnight®: December 21st
- FedEx 2Day® A.M: December 20th
- FedEx 2Day®: December 20th
- FedEx Express Saver®: December 19th
- FedEx Ground®: December 17th
- FedEx Home Delivery®: December December 17th
- FedEx SmartPost®: December 10th
For more information on FedEx shipping deadlines, click here.
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