Online Surge Raises Questions About Delivery Network
John Taggart/Bloomberg News
A 20% surge in online holiday shopping — much of it just days before Christmas — brought the retailing and shipping industries closer to a tipping point many experts think is inevitable.
The steady rise in online shopping creates an annual tsunami of deliveries that stretches the system well beyond the normal demand, forcing patchwork solutions.
UPS added 24 “pop-up” sorting locations around the country and temporarily expanded its capacity to move packages by paying for the use of extra trucks and planes for the holiday season. It also bolstered its normally all-brown fleet by renting U-Hauls or other vehicles.
Archrival FedEx, which took similar steps, struggled with delayed shipments from an unexpected increase in last-minute online orders. It was still delivering some on Christmas Day and the day after.
UPS and FedEx rank Nos. 1 and 2 on the Transport Topics list of the Top 100 largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada.
“People are last-minute shoppers now,” said David Huckeba, managing director at Intelligent Audit. “Somebody’s going to order some Beats headphones at 2 a.m. on Sunday ... that they could have ordered all year long.”
Preliminary results suggest online ordering saved the season for retailing, and that the vast majority of orders made it where they were going on time. MasterCard’s SpendingPulse report said overall holiday spending rose 7.9%, with online sales driving much of the gain. Online titan Amazon reported record sales.
UPS had early troubles after the “Cyber Monday” ordering rush, but spokesman Glenn Zaccara said the company had about 97% to 98% on-time delivery through Christmas Eve.
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|By Leon Stafford and Kelly Yamanouchi|
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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