- Package deliveries are expected to soar to new highs this year as retailers like Walmart and Amazon offer faster and cheaper shipping than ever before.
- “Record high [package] volumes, rising consumer expectations and fewer days than usual between Black Friday and Christmas Eve will put more pressure than ever on retailers and logistics companies this holiday season,” said Lila Snyder, president of commerce services for the shipping giant Pitney Bowes.
- The number of packages shipped this year in the US is expected to reach 13.4 billion – representing 900 million more packages than last year and a 45% increase from 2014, according to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index, which tracks parcel volumes globally.
- The surge in deliveries this holiday season could give porch pirates more opportunities to commit crimes. Some police departments are preparing for this possibility by allowing people to ship packages to their local police stations and by training residents to identify suspicious activity.
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This holiday season is expected to bring more packages to shoppers’ doorsteps than ever before, with consumers increasingly purchasing goods online and retailers like Walmart and Amazon offering the cheapest, fastest shipping options in history.
“We will definitely see record highs in package deliveries this holiday season as an even higher percentage of holiday shopping shifts online,” said Lila Snyder, president of commerce services for the shipping giant Pitney Bowes.
This will put added pressure on retailers and logistics companies this year, she said.
“Record high [package] volumes, rising consumer expectations and fewer days than usual between Black Friday and Christmas Eve will put more pressure than ever on retailers and logistics companies this holiday season,” she said.
For consumers, surging package volumes means more mail trucks cruising their neighbourhoods, leaving mounting piles of cardboard boxes in their wake. It also means that package thieves may have even more opportunities to steal unattended deliveries, which police departments across the US are now preparing to combat with public awareness campaigns, trainings, bait packages, and more.
The number of packages shipped this year in the US is expected to reach 13.4 billion – representing 900 million more packages than last year and a 45% increase from 2014, according to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index, which tracks parcel volumes globally.
A large portion of those billions of packages will be transported during the busy holiday season.
Online sales in November and December are expected to grow between 11% and 14% to $US163 billion this year, compared to the same period in 2018, according to the National Retail Federation. Meanwhile, overall retail sales are expected to rise about 4%, to nearly $US730 billion.
Shipping is faster and cheaper than ever before
With the growth in online shopping, package returns are also expected to surge to record highs this year.
UPS recently said it expects shoppers to return about one million packages daily during the month of December, and to make about 1.6 million returns daily during the week before Christmas. Return activity is expected to peak on January 2, with 1.9 million package returns, UPS said. That’s up 26% from last year’s peak in package returns.
UPS, FedEx, and Amazon grow delivery ranks
UPS said in September that it planned to hire 100,000 seasonal workers this year, as the company estimated a record-setting peak season of more than 30 million package deliveries per day. FedEx said it planned to add 55,000 seasonal hires.
Amazon has also experienced rapid growth in its delivery network since last year. The company announced a new package of incentives in mid-2018 to encourage people to start businesses delivering packages for Amazon. That program’s first hires began launching their businesses last fall. Since then, hundreds more people have been hired to launch delivery businesses for Amazon.
The program’s incentives included special deals on Amazon-branded vans, so consumers should expect to see many more of Amazon’s navy delivery vans on the streets this holiday season, compared to previous years.
Police departments prepare for surges in package theft
As package deliveries grow, police departments across the US are trying to tamp down on the potential for surges in thefts from so-called “porch pirates” through public awareness campaigns, bait packages, and other measures.
Many other agencies are launching public awareness campaigns through mailers, fliers, and social media posts advertising tips to prevent package theft.
The police department in Richmond, Virginia, for example, has printed out several thousand fliers on holiday safety tips, with one side of the flier devoted to preventing package theft, according to Gene Lepley, the department’s spokesperson. Police are distributing the fliers to businesses and leaving them on parked cars around the city, he said.
The flier encourages people to deliver packages to their offices instead of their homes, request signatures on deliveries, or enlist a neighbour to receive their packages.
The Kansas City, Missouri, police department is advertising a similar set of anti-theft tips on social media and sending officers out to neighbourhood associations to conduct “block watch trainings,” which are meant to help residents identify suspicious activity, said Sgt. Jake Becchina, the department’s spokesperson.
The police department is also actively analysing crime patterns daily for any spikes in package thefts or other crimes.
“If there’s a pattern of increased thefts, we can develop a specific solution for that area, whether it’s undercover cars or a bait package,” he said.
Online shopping empowers consumers, but it comes at a cost
The growing number of e-commerce-related boxes moving back and forth around the US and globally has broad implications for consumers, retailers, and the environment.
“The massive increase in package deliveries that has happened has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives,” said Kelly Goldsmith, an associate professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University.
Online shopping has given consumers greater power and access to goods than ever before, she said. It has also given rise to new forms of surveillance such as Ring doorbells, and has led to some companies testing autonomous deliveries and in-home drop-offs with smart locks.
There’s a dark side to this ballooning industry, however, in the form of growing packaging waste, carbon emissions, and opportunities for product theft, which can hurt both retailers and consumers, Goldsmith said.
But it’s unlikely that concerns about these issues will slow the growth in package volumes, which Pitney Bowes expects to hit 200 billion globally in 2025.
“Realistically, I think this train is only headed toward more and more online consumption,” Goldsmith said.
- Read more about the holiday shopping season:
- FDR was roasted and compared to Hitler for moving Thanksgiving to stretch out a truncated holiday shopping season that was even shorter than the one we’re facing in 2019
- Malls may be dying, but the retail Santa business is still thriving, and some retirees are becoming stars
- Rich people prefer Cyber Monday to Black Friday, and it’s changing the entire holiday shopping season
- Black Friday has been a shopping bonanza for the last two decades. Here’s how it has evolved over the years.
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