Nation & World

Shipping delays are mounting

As forecast, record delays are being reported

A FedEx employee delivers a package on Wednesday in Chicago. (Chicago Tribune/TNS)
A FedEx employee delivers a package on Wednesday in Chicago. (Chicago Tribune/TNS)

You can’t say you haven’t been warned.

Record online sales have led to the crush of packages at shipping companies and the U.S. Postal Service that was predicted a month ago.

As a result, merchants of all sizes are issuing warnings and apologies to consumers, who are turning to social media to complain.

Nike, Ulta and Barnes and Noble say it’s already too late for free shipping. Nordstrom calls out items that arrive by Christmas and Macy’s is spotlighting products that are eligible for pickup or same-day delivery and arrive in a Macy’s bag.

H&M says any new orders won’t arrive by Christmas.

With the clock ticking, retailers such as Kohl’s and Target are encouraging shoppers to place orders for store pickup rather than risk a late delivery.

Chellie Britt of South Holland, Ill., said two of three gifts she sent through the Postal Service earlier this month arrived late. A second batch of packages, mailed Saturday, have had more issues.

A gift she sent to her aunt on Saturday was delivered to the wrong ZIP code, another package appeared to be out for delivery but returned to a post office, and a certified letter sent the same day doesn’t appear to have moved, she said.

She wouldn’t have been surprised to see some delays between the pandemic and the holiday rush but wasn’t expecting to see gifts go to the wrong address or get stranded, such as a package she has yet to receive that spent four days sitting in Atlanta.

“I’ve spent a lot of time the last week refreshing usps.com. I have work to do. I don’t want to have to worry about my cousin’s kids getting their gifts on time,” Britt said.

The Postal Service acknowledged temporary delays because of a “historic record of holiday volume” and capacity challenges, including a shortage of employees due to COVID-19, according to a statement earlier this week.

U.S. online holiday sales are expected to hit $184 billion this holiday season, up 30 percent from last year, according to Adobe Analytics.

Early in the season, shipping companies mostly kept up, according to ShipMatrix, which analyzes shipping data.

Between Nov. 22 and Dec. 5, FedEx, UPS and the Postal Service delivered 94.9 percent, 96.3 percent and 92.8 percent, respectively, of packages on time.

All three delivered more packages on time than they did during the same period last year.

That still means about 2.5 million packages could take an extra day or two to arrive, ShipMatrix President Satish Jindel said.

With other companies turning away packages they don’t have the capacity to handle, volume at the Postal Service has increased, and so have the delays, said Carson Krieg, co-founder of Convey, a company that tracks shipping data and helps retailers manage deliveries.

The Postal Service delivered about 79 percent of packages on time during the week that ended Dec. 3 and just 60 percent during the week ending Dec. 10, according to Convey.

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UPS delivered about 83 percent of packages on time during the week ending Dec. 10, while FedEx delivered 66 percent on time, down from 75 percent a week earlier, according to Convey.

Convey’s data tracks whether packages arrive on the initial estimated delivery date that shoppers see in a package tracking email, while ShipMatrix looks at whether a carrier delivered within the window it promised the retailer.

A package could miss the estimated date but still arrive on time.

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