Thursday, December 14, 2017

Holidays 2017: Will My “Ship” Get There On Time?

Peak shipping season is in full swing and 2017 is shaping up to be an interesting year.  Our team has been busy forecasting/monitoring parcel traffic volume and the question on everyone’s mind is:  Will my “ship” get there on time?
If you’re still planning on shipping this holiday season, here’s what you need to know.  If you just want to see if your package is likely to arrive on time skip to the infographic below.  [skip]
Online sales is growing at estimated 18% as opposed to a relatively static retail growth of about 4%, fueling major package volume increases for USPS, UPS and FedEx and others.  There are several uniques about the 2017 peak landscape and most interestingly, outside of the general volume increase, is the fact that Christmas day falls on a Monday this year.  This further compounds staffing complexity for the carriers with two major delivery days falling on a weekend – traditionally limited service days (Sat 12/23 and Sun 12/24).
The good news so far (at least at the time of this writing) is that weather has for the most part been on the side of the carriers nationwide.
Here is a breakout of the package volume the carriers expect to push through their networks Nov 27 through Dec 24:
  • FedEx 400M Packages (~ +10% YoY)
  • UPS 750M Packages (~ +7% YoY)
  • USPS 850M Packages (~ +10% YoY)
Consider those numbers for a second before you bash the carriers.  2 billion. That’s a lot of boxes.  These guys/gals are working hard.
At eAudit we’ve monitored the ramp up over the last few weeks and forecasted 68% overall package volume increase over a typical month (a 9% increase over December 2016) for our customers,  confirming the carriers expectations and further expansion of online transactions.
This isn’t totally unexpected however, if you track back to summer 2017 you’ll observe a significant uptick (5-7% YoY) in shipping containers destined for the U.S.  In other words merchants have been stocking inventory at record pace therefore making bets on this season for many months.

Although the anticipated volume is less than a surprise,  we’ve observed the carrier networks are still showing signs of major congestion.  Despite bringing on 95K additional temporary hires, UPS has already implemented a 70 hour work week for many employees and has already admitted volume is exceeding their expectation.  FedEx brought 50K additional people to handle the load and are also working extended hours.  Even with the added resources UPS and FedEx are still struggling to clear existing volume from record setting $6.5+ billion in Cyber Monday sales this year.  This backup is also evident in the significant week over week upticks we’re observing in our customers deliveries past their commit times (arriving late).

So,  will your “ship” arrive on time?  Our basic recommendation is to finish up as much online shopping by Friday 12/15 to avoid unnecessary risk or expense this year.  The closer the holiday becomes we also recommend considering “ship to store” options if available.  Delivering hundreds of packages to a store is far more efficient for the carriers than your doorstep which could increase the odds of an on time delivery in your favor.
Friday 12/15 is the last day general ground shipments have a reasonable expectation to arrive by Dec 23, with UPS having a slight advantage this year with it’s newly expanded Saturday Delivery for Ground service.  Starting Monday,  the options start to dwindle with only premium options being available.
We’re watching Dec 22 closely as it’s the last day most premium services should deliver that are not upgraded to Saturday delivery(additional cost).  Saturday Delivery option is key here,  remember to select it and pay the piper if you need to!
As always the most up to date delivery estimates are going to be from the carriers themselves,  here are links to each of their online delivery date estimation tools:
Another important consideration for parcel shipping this year are changes to the carriers money back guarantee.  FedEx has kept step with it’s 2016 announcements while UPS has made a significant change to Ground service guarantees, waiving refunds for the entire season as opposed to partially last year.  UPS’s guarantee is still slightly stronger however,  by still time guaranteeing Next Day Air Early and WW Express to within 90 minutes,  as opposed to all FedEx air services by end of day.
2017 UPS Holiday Money Back Guarantee  (link)
UPS Air and International Scheduled Dec 18-23:
Next Day Air Early and World Wide Express Plus: +90 Mins to delivery time
All other Air by End of Day
UPS Ground and Standard Picked up Nov 27-Dec 24:
No Money Back Guarantee if Late
(2016 no guarantee dates: 11/27- 12/3 and 12/18-12/24)
2017 FedEx Holiday Money Back Guarantee  (link)
FedEx Air and International Scheduled Dec 18-23:
All By End of Day
FedEx Ground and Home Delivery Picked up Nov 27-Dec 24
No Money Back Guarantee if Late

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