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Are Shipping Carriers Prepared for Black Friday in July?

Amazon set off a chain reaction when it declared this Wednesday Amazon Prime Day. Rival retailers are reacting by running promotions of their own, including Walmart and some big-name retailers on FreeShipping.com.

But will shipping carriers be ready for a “Black Friday” shopping day in July?

Blogger D. Eadward Tree of Dead Tree Edition, a blog about magazine publishing and postal issues, raised the issue on Saturday. He predicted the US Postal Service will struggle to handle the surge of Amazon packages without hurting delivery of other types of mail – even with massive overtime.

He did some back-of-the-envelope calculations and estimated that USPS letter carriers could end up handling roughly 20 times their normal Amazon volume and more than double their normal daily volume for all Parcel Select packages. While he called his estimates a “Sophisticated Wild-Ass Guess,” he raised an important issue.

Dead Tree Edition’s estimates only took into account the impact of Amazon packages. Walmart on Monday said it was kicking off thousands of deals beginning this week “along with some special atomic deals,” and it is lowering its free-shipping threshold to $35.

USPS spokesperson Sarah Ninivaggi told EcommerceBytes on Monday, “we are prepared for expected increased volume,” though she wouldn’t provide any details, nor would she say whether Amazon had reached out to let it know about it expectations of Prime Day demands.

What about other carriers? UPS Public Relations Director Susan Rosenberg said UPS doesn’t discuss specific customer operating plans, but provided the following response: “We work with a variety of retailers and e-tailers all the time on special promotions that prompt variations in their volume. It’s the communication and collaboration that makes it successful for both UPS and the merchant. And we add the UPS visibility both to the shipper and My Choice alerts to the end consumer to add value from information management and an enhanced customer experience.”

We also reached out to Canada Post. Rod Hart, GM Domestic Parcels & E-commerce, said, “We work very closely with our large online retail customers on planning any changes that would have an impact on our ability to deliver on our customer promise.” And, he punned, “We are primed to meet the demand.”

An industry player who was cautious about going on the record made an interesting point. “Prime Day lets Amazon use different math vis a vis what products to discount. They can discount deep sku, slow moving items, or items that suppliers are discounting.” Would he expect a surge in shipments from other retailers reacting to Amazon this week? “As far as we know, no other retailer has a lever the size of Prime.”

As for Amazon itself, spokesperson Ana Rigby sounded confident in the company’s logistics capability. “Over the past 20 years we’ve invested in our fulfillment network globally to ensure we can meet growing demand. We have more than 50 fulfillment centers across the U.S. that are able to fulfill customer orders and we communicate directly with customers to provide detailed information on delivery times when orders are placed.”

As for the preparedness of shipping carriers, she said, “We have been planning for Prime Day in partnership with our amazing associates and delivery partners.”

She would not share estimates around the number of orders expected on Prime Day, but said, “we are excited to see how customers respond.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.