2021 Holiday Shipping Deadlines
The holidays are fast approaching, and many brick-and-mortar retailers have already begun to display items for winter holidays that are still months away. As buyers gain access to holiday items earlier in the year, they are compelled to purchase these seasonal items and gifts that much sooner.
While this may, on the surface, seem like it would quell the rush of orders that flow in from Black Friday through the end of December, statistics show that holiday ecommerce sales are steadily on the rise. Ecommerce sales in 2021 are expected to rise to 18.9% total holiday sales, bringing in $206.88 billion. This is double what we saw in 2016 when ecommerce sales brought in less than half that–just $93.53–during that year’s holiday season.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in the face of the new Delta variant, many people will remain at home for the holidays again this year, instead of sending gifts to loved ones through the mail. Often, this will be directly from ecommerce retailers. During this busy and trying time, shipping automation software like ShipWorks will form the strategic backbone for many successful ecommerce retailers during the 2021 holiday season.
USPS, UPS, FedEx, and similarly important carriers are likely to be pushed to their limits. Retailers will also need to account for holiday shipping deadlines in order to ensure packages are delivered on time. Shipping rate increases will also need to be accounted for, although using an automated shipping platform like Shipworks can lessen this task by automatically comparing carrier rates, in addition to other functions like label printing and carrier discounts.
2021 Shipping Rates Increases
Similar to what occurred during 2020, USPS will again be increasing shipping rates during peak season. These rate increases will remain in effect from midnight CST on October 3rd to midnight CST December 26th, 2021, according to a recent postal service press release. This will mark the first year that all customers will experience increased rates for an entire USPS holiday season.
A rate increase of $0.25 to $5.00 per package will likely generate more than $1 billion of revenue for the USPS. Over 1 billion packages were reportedly shipped by the USPS during the 2020 holiday season.
Holiday Shipping Schedule and Details
While it’s largely known that thousands of postal employees were out sick—many with COVID—in 2020, we must be ready to account for a similar situation to arise this year, as the cold comes back, people return indoors, and family holidays fill the calendar again. In conjunction with USPS, other logistics resources that were similarly strained in 2020 are likely to see the same sort of strain again in 2021.
Trucking accounts for over 70% of freight hauled in the US. With current labor shortages and resource shortages, small business owners, warehouse shipping and distribution facility owners, and even agencies such as the USPS are feeling the additional burden. Workers don’t want to miss the holidays with their families, so the incentives to entice them to do so are becoming increasingly expensive.
UPS and FedEx hired a combined total of 170,000 temporary workers to cover the 2020 surge in demand. Both businesses applied peak season surcharges to level out their operational expenditures (OpEx). Average coast-to-coast shipping package delays exceeded 10% for both UPS and FedEx.
We’ve included shipping deadlines for the USPS, UPS, and FedEx here for your convenience:
USPS HOLIDAY SHIPPING DEADLINES IN THE US
|Service||Shipping Cutoff Date|
|Retail Ground™||Wednesday, December 15th, 2021|
|First Class Mail®||Friday, December 17th, 2021|
|Priority Mail®||Saturday, December 18th, 2021|
|Priority Mail Express®||Thursday, December 23rd, 2021|
FEDEX HOLIDAY SHIPPING DEADLINES
|Service||Shipping Cutoff Date|
|FedEx SmartPost®||Thursday, December 9th, 2021 (with exceptions)|
|FedEx Ground®||Wednesday, December 15th, 2021|
|Home Delivery®||Wednesday, December 15th, 2021|
|Express Saver®||Tuesday, December 21st, 2021|
|2Day® Services||Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021|
|Overnight® Services||Thursday, December 23rd, 2021|
UPS HOLIDAY SHIPPING DEADLINES
|Service||Shipping Cutoff Date|
|3 Day Select®||Tuesday, December 21st, 2021|
|2nd Day Air® Services||Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021|
|Next Day Air® Services||Thursday, December 23rd, 2021|
5 Holiday Shipping Tips for You & Your Customers
If you want to ensure that your business is able to minimize the number of late deliveries and provide an excellent holiday shipping experience for all of your customers, then the following five tips will help:
- Ensure Your Inventory Stays in Stock: Ordering stock in advance, procuring alternate suppliers, and using reliable warehouse management software is an excellent way to ensure that your supplies are prepared for the upcoming demand surge. Among current shortages lay glass, zippers, and raw materials, according to Reuters.
- Choose A Streamlined Shipping Process: You can’t afford to spend hours every day printing shipping labels. Your team needs to have things like labels ready to go when they start the day. WMS-based process automation is a great way to ensure that your business can rise to meet the demand.
- Offer Shipping Information in Your Metadata: Shipping information should be listed in the data that’s listed directly on your product page(s), much like it is on sites like Amazon.com. Always work to set consumer expectations upfront. Setting clear expectations is vital to a successful holiday shipping experience.
- Provide Clear Shipping Information for All Parties: Shipping information should include things such as product dimensions and weight, box size and markings, shipping turnaround times, and any factors on which shipping is contingent, such as COVID. Finally, you should include all relevant addresses, product markings, and other pertinent information on the proper shipping label.
- Be Ready For Returns: Holidays are marked by an above-average rate of returns for products. Your business must be ready to reclaim and reorganize these return-stock items. This may include repackaging, product verification, and restocking at the warehouse.
If 2020 was an example of what types of delays we should expect for holiday deliveries in 2021, things may get messy in 2021. The average consumer expects accurate estimation for delivery prior to purchase. Delays in shipping and supply chain issues can cause important parcels, such as holiday and anniversary presents to be delayed. ShipWorks provides software to assist businesses in developing smooth shipping processes. Shipping is key to holiday success and the shopping rush is starting now, so businesses are starting to prepare in advance.