Holiday season shipping, when does it peak? What do you need to know and how to prepare?

Since
we are all probably feeling a bit queasy and bloated today from too much
turkey, stuffing and other Thanksgiving goodies let’s try to keep things light
and look at holiday season shipping. This is a subject that touches everyone in
online retail small or large, you rely on your preferred parcel carrier daily
to get that package safely to your customer, and this concern only grows as the
holiday shopping season rolls around. As a seller you may have wondered once or
twice, just when is the peak of the holiday season? Is there a particular day
when you can expect your sales volume to hit its high mark? This is a tricky
question to answer since lots of variables are involved and every business
experiences the holiday rush differently but if you want a good indicator you
can probably look to your carrier to answer this question. For the purposes of
this article let’s look at the USPS and what they anticipate to ship as well as
when they anticipate shipping volume to hit its peak. The USPS expects to
deliver 900 million packages this holiday season by far the largest number of
parcels of any of the major carriers by comparison UPS expects to deliver about
800 million and FedEx roughly half that number. While the USPS does not state a
particular day which this volume hits its maximum, they tell us that they
expect to ship around 200 million packages a week starting on December 10th and
that the week of December 17th to the 23rd is
expected to be the busiest of these holiday season weeks. So that sweet spot is
that last week before Christmas, this stands to reason it’s your last-minute
shoppers frantically trying to finish up their purchases making this week into
a veritable blizzard of parcels. The only problem with this is that these
last-minute shoppers are woefully ignorant of just how crazy shipping this week
will be and the likelihood of packages being delayed increases dramatically. So
as a seller what can and should you do to avoid the disgruntled last-minute
holiday shopper that does not get their package in time? Very simply tell your
customers the cutoffs. All of the major carriers clearly list a cutoff for
Christmas delivery (see below) and so should you in big, bold, bright letters
so they are not missed. Obviously, you will have a few customers still waiting
until the last minute, but you can minimize this by stating these cutoffs and
manage their expectations better. Obviously still expect to be very busy this
last week before the Christmas holiday and make sure to build some extra time
into your schedule to deal with the increased demand. Last but not least do not
run out of the essentials like boxes, padded envelopes, tape and most important
of all inventory!

USPS: Shipping
service cutoff dates to ensure Christmas delivery

Retail
Ground – Friday, Dec. 14

First Class
Mail – Thursday, Dec. 20

Priority
Mail – Thursday, Dec. 20

Priority
Mail – Express Saturday, Dec. 22

FedEx: Shipping
service cutoff dates to ensure Christmas delivery

SmartPost
Services – Monday, Dec. 10

Ground –
Friday, Dec. 14

Home
Delivery – Monday, Dec. 17

Express
Saver – Wednesday, Dec. 19

2Day
Services Thursday, Dec. 20

Overnight
Services Friday, Dec. 21

UPS: Shipping
service cutoff dates to ensure Christmas delivery

Ground –
Friday, Dec. 14

3 Day
Select – Tuesday, Dec. 18

2nd Day Air
Services – Thursday, Dec. 20

Next Day
Air Services – Saturday, Dec. 22

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