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Everything You Need to Know about Holiday Shipping and Beyond

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Everything You Need to Know about Holiday Shipping and Beyond

The holiday shopping season is here, and things are quickly ramping up for online merchants in what for many are the busiest months of the year. It also marks the period when they must brace for news of shipping rate hikes coming in January. Here’s a guide to help you get oriented.

Busiest Holiday Mailing and Delivery Days

Shipping carriers used to announce their busiest day during the holiday shopping season, but according to the US Postal Service, the “busiest day” notion is a thing of the past.

Instead, the Postal Service now has a “busiest time,” and it starts two weeks before Christmas. Beginning the week of Dec. 9, customer traffic is expected to increase, with the week of Dec. 16 – 22 predicted to be the busiest mailing, shipping and delivery week.

That said, the USPS anticipates Dec. 16 will be its busiest day online. It predicts over 8.5 million consumers will visit USPS.com for help shipping holiday gifts.

It also predicts that nearly 400,000 consumers will use its Click-N-Ship feature and other online services on Dec. 16 to order free Priority Mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postage and request free next-day Package Pickup.

Adding to the pressure for sellers: Thanksgiving falls late on the calendar this year. That means a later Black Friday and Cyber Monday will add tighter shipping deadlines for merchants – you may want to advise customers to upgrade their shipping service leading up to the Christmas holiday.

2019 Holiday Shipping Deadlines

The USPS released its 2019 Holiday Shipping Deadlines. Some key dates include the following:

Dec. 20 – First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards)
Dec. 20 – First-class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)
Dec. 21 – Priority Mail service
Dec. 23 – Priority Mail Express service (not guaranteed)

The postal service added some disclaimers, explaining those dates were for estimated delivery before December 25. “Actual delivery date may vary depending on origin, destination, Post Office acceptance date and time and other conditions. Some restrictions apply,…” You can find the full announcement on the USPS website.

UPS published its guide to holiday shipping. Key dates include the following:

Nov. 25 – UPS Ground service modification begins, meaning some packages will see added transit times.
Dec. 2 – Ground Service Guarantee suspended
Dec. 13 – Last day to ship some UPS Ground packages for delivery on Dec. 24.
Dec. 19 – Last day to ship via UPS 3 Day Select
Dec. 20 – Last day to ship via UPS 2nd Day Air
Dec. 23 – Last day to ship via UPS Next Day Air
Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve: Limited UPS service.
Dec. 25 – Christmas. UPS holiday. No UPS pickup or delivery service. (UPS Express Critical service is available. Call 1-800-714-8779 or visit upsexpresscritical.com.)

You can find the full announcement with details and additional key dates on the UPS website.

FedEx published a holiday service schedule on its website. In its 2019 holiday shipping guide, ShipStation highlighted the following key dates:

Dec. 9 – FedEx SmartPost
Dec. 16 – FedEx Ground
Dec. 16 – Home Delivery
Dec. 19 – Express Saver
Dec. 20 – 2Day Services
Dec. 23 – Overnight Services

FedEx also modifies its shipping guarantee policies during the holidays. For example: “The money-back guarantee for FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery will be suspended temporarily for packages picked up on Sunday, Nov. 3, through Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019.” You can read the details on this page of the FedEx website (PDF format).

ShipStation’s guide on holiday 2019 shipping deadlines for the major carriers includes a helpful infographic. It also offers the following advice to shippers: “Make sure that your customers know that the final stretch before the holidays may require them to upgrade their shipping service.”

Peak Surcharges

Don’t forget to check with your carrier to see what peak surcharges they may be charging shippers and when those extra fees apply.

Amazon FBA Holiday Deadlines

If you sell through the Fulfillment by Amazon program (FBA), you’re facing deadlines as well. Amazon advised FBA sellers:

To ensure your inventory is available for purchase during the holidays, please ensure your inventory arrives at our fulfillment centers by these dates:

November 6 – For Black Friday and Cyber Monday
December 3 – For peak year-end sales

You can read more and post a comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

Annual Rate Hikes Coming to a Carrier Near You in January

Every year like clockwork, shipping carriers raise their rates. USPS and FedEx have already announced their 2020 rates, and UPS is sure to follow.

USPS Rates for 2020
USPS filed for its 2020 rate change on Oct. 9 – if approved, new rates will go into effect on January 26, 2020.

Overall, the proposed prices would raise Mailing Services product prices by approximately 1.9 percent. Shipping Services price increases vary by product. For example, Priority Mail Express prices will increase 3.5 percent, while Priority Mail prices will increase 4.1 percent, on average.

Although Mailing Services price increases are based on the consumer price index, Shipping Services prices are primarily adjusted according to market conditions.

See this article in today’s issue for more information about the proposed new USPS rates.

FedEx Rates for 2020
FedEx announced its 2020 rates on September 17, they will go into effect on Jan. 6, 2020.

The average rate increase for services commonly used by online merchants is 4.9% – that applies to FedEx Ground, FedEx Express, and FedEx Home Delivery

In addition, sellers will see changes to the cost of shipping packages that require additional handling or are oversized, and there will be changes to fuel surcharges.

UPS Rates for 2020
Last year, UPS waited until Dec. 6 to announce its 2019 rates, giving sellers only 3 weeks before the new prices took effect on Dec. 26. There’s been no announcement from UPS about 2020 rates as of this writing.

Additional Tips for Holiday Shipping Preparedness

Some other tips for getting ready for holiday shipping 2019:

  • Organize your shipping workstation to be more efficient and save time.
  • Make sure you have adequate shipping supplies on hand now.
  • Negotiate lower shipping rates.
  • Use multi-carrier, multi-channel software to save time and money – here’s a chart from EcommerceBytes Ratings and Reviews feature.

We’ll continue to report on holiday sales and shipping in EcommerceBytes Newsflash, so stay tuned!

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
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/.