With Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the rear view mirror, the holiday shopping season, and the rush to deliver packages, is in full swing. The last few years of holiday shopping, and the shipping crunch associated with e-commerce orders, has produced its share of ups and downs. Late packages will never be eliminated fully, but retailers and shippers alike have taken steps to ensure that a holiday meltdown similar to 2013, where an estimated two million packages were delivered late, does not happen again. So while there are still many unknowns out there, let’s look at how companies are preparing for the holiday rush.
UPS is once again ramping up its holiday plans with people and infrastructure. The company is anticipating significant growth in the number of packages delivered during the holiday season, rising to a record volume of more than 700 million packages. To handle the increased volume, UPS is hiring about 95,000 seasonal workers, which is the same number as last year. From an infrastructure standpoint, the company is leasing an undisclosed number of aircrafts, trucks, and trailers. Additionally, the shipper is boosting its package processing capacity by adding temporary mobile delivery centers. Like last year, UPS is keeping five meteorologists on staff to monitor the weather around the world to brace for potential disruptions.
FedEx is also investing in the holiday rush with a combination of people and infrastructure. The company is expecting a 10% increase in the number of packages delivered this year, bringing this year’s total up to 385 million packages. To help with this growth, FedEx is bringing in an additional 50,000 seasonal employees. This number, however, represents an 11% decrease from last year’s temporary workforce. From an infrastructure standpoint, FedEx has spent the better part of the last year building out an additional 12 million square feet of sorting space around the country. The company’s air freight division has also acquired 30 additional jets since last year’s holiday season.
The U.S. Postal Service is gearing up for a record breaking holiday season as well. The government agency expects to deliver roughly 16 billion cards, letters, and packages this holiday season. This includes 750 million packages, which is a 12% increase over last year. The USPS is hiring an additional 35,000 seasonal employees to help process and deliver these packages and letters. Similar to last year, all USPS locations will provide Sunday deliveries through December. To encourage customers to skip the long lines at the Post Office, the USPS is urging customers to take advantage of their Click and Ship options to order boxes and shipping labels online and schedule next day package pick-up.
Last week, a Federal judge ordered 250 striking airline cargo pilots from ABX Air, who makes deliveries for Amazon, back to work. This could have been disastrous for the online retail giant, but the one-day strike does not appear to have caused significant delays. Gearing up for the holidays, Amazon has been busy building additional fulfillment centers in various parts of the country to speed up their fulfillment services. The company is hiring an estimated 120,000 seasonal workers this year, a 20% increase over last year. Amazon is putting technology in the hands of their seasonal workers, using touch screens and robots to train the temporary employees. According to Amazon, this combination has new warehouse workers up to speed in two days, rather than six weeks, like in a normal warehouse setting.
These four companies are clearly not the only ones preparing for the holiday season. Walmart is pushing click and collect as one of its main priorities this year by making thousands of additional products available for the service. The thinking is to allow customers to reserve items online, but still get them in the store. The company has not disclosed its holiday season hiring numbers, but best guesses are that they are similar to last year’s 60,000. BestBuy has once again offered free shipping on all online purchases during the holiday season. This eliminates the $35 spending threshold that typically needs to be met. However, considering that the average ticket price at BestBuy is more than $35, this looks more like a marketing ploy than a real incentive. Target is hiring 77,750 seasonal workers this year, with 7,750 dedicated to distribution and fulfillment facilities. Macy’s will hire 83,000 seasonal workers in stores, call centers, distribution centers and online fulfillment centers nationwide.
All in all, seasonal hiring by retailers will amount to about 740,000 jobs, which is roughly the same number as last year. With the rise of e-commerce, many of these positions are geared towards fulfilling orders, rather in-store help only. This is certainly a dramatic shift in the overall retail landscape, and one that will most likely continue for years to come.