What Retailers and Etailers Can Learn From The Christmas Delivery Mishap!

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and are getting ready to say good-bye to 2013 and say hello to 2014!

Hopefully, you were not one of those who had a delivery not arrive by Christmas.  As you may have heard, there was an overload of deliveries on both UPS’ and FedEx’s systems, thus causing some packages that were ordered well in advance and even with priority shipping that were not delivered by Christmas.  You can read more about that here.  Talk about a “bah humbug!”

UPS and FedEx are blaming it on not anticipating as many orders due to projections that were off-target.  They also blamed it on poor weather.  As the article referenced above shows, there were people in at least 11 states (including my home state of Ohio) that did not receive presents in time for Christmas.

There was an interesting dichotomy in how these two main shippers approached this.  UPS had considered calling in drivers and having them ship to customers on Christmas Day, but decided against it.  It’s understandable in the sense that they did not want to call in workers who were expecting to get a scheduled day off, and likely a rare day off at that.  UPS did call in workers to their Louisville, Kentucky hub to sort packages for Thursday and Friday delivery.

FedEx didn’t call in drivers either, but some customers were able to pick up their packages on Christmas Day at their local FedEx Express centers, so FedEx was able to come through to some extent for some customers, whereas UPS (to my knowledge) did not.

In addition to the overloaded systems and poor weather, some analysts placed some blame on consumers who waited until the last minute to order gifts, though as mentioned above, most who had their packages delayed ordered in plenty of time under normal circumstances, so most customers were not very forgiving and understanding about not having their packages delivered by Christmas, especially those who paid for upgraded shipping.

Thus, what can we learn from this mishap, and what can retailers and online retailers learn?

We can learn that waiting until the latter stages of the shopping season may not always be the best choice if we’re shopping online, even though many of us like to do it either because we’re too busy and/or we feel we can get better bargains later in the season.  With that said, hopefully retailers and online retailers (along with their shipping partners) have learned to have enough capacity and capability to handle large-volume orders late in the season.  They will need to prepare quickly, as the 2014 Christmas shopping season is only 1 day longer, as Thanksgiving 2014 is on November 27 (versus 2013’s being November 28).

Some analysts think that this mishap could help offline retailers make more sales late in the season because more people could be willing to enter stores and malls later in the season to avoid this type of potential mishap from happening again.  Conversely, however, online sales could be higher earlier in the season (including during the Gray Thursday-Black Friday weekend) to ensure that such packages from online retailers and retailers’ websites are delivered in plenty of time for Christmas, so I think both retailers ane etailers could benefit long-term over this mishap, especially if they make the necessary adjustments to avoid this situation next year.  It’s certainly vital that they do so, as the Christmas shopping season will be relatively short in 2014 as well.

It is a little surprising to me that retailers and shippers were not better-prepared in terms of their ordering and delivery systems; after all, online shopping and delivery continue to rise with each passing season, and this trend will continue into the foreseeable future.  People’s lives are busier than ever, and with “all-time commerce” becoming a more prominent capability in people’s everyday lives, it’s become even easier for people to do their holiday shopping from virtually anywhere, whether that’s waiting for a business call or eating in the cafeteria at work to watching the children or even while watching a movie on the sofa at home.

Certainly, the weather didn’t help, and that’s something that can’t be predicted, but this mishap really has to be a wake-up call for retailers and etailers (along with their delivery partners) to be better-prepared for late-season online orders, as this trend will only continue, and the 2014 shopping season will not be much longer than this season.  We can only hope that there are no lumps of coal and “bah humbugs” for people on Christmas Day 2014.


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