The 2019 Holiday Logistics Guide

And like that, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday are in the books. This means we have hit peak holiday shopping and shipping season. This year, however, there is an added wrinkle for retailers. Namely, with Thanksgiving being so late this year, retailers are left with six less days of holiday shopping after Black Friday. As a result, Black Friday saw record traffic in the way of online activity, with 10 million more shoppers online for Black Friday than for Cyber Monday. With Christmas just two weeks away, let’s check in to see how some of the largest logistics providers and retailers are handling the holiday logistics rush.

holiday logisticsUPS is projecting an increase of five percent in its holiday package delivery volume over last year. Considering the company delivered an estimated 750 million packages last year, that puts this year’s total at nearly 790 million packages. To help with the onslaught of packages, UPS is hiring 100,000 seasonal workers this year, which is no small feat considering the tight labor market. These positions are primarily package handlers, drivers, and driver-helpers. UPS has said that on average, nearly 35 percent of seasonal employees have become full-time employees over the last few years. UPS is also offering other incentives for those still in school. The company is offering its “Earn and Learn” program, which allows seasonal employees to earn up to $1,300 toward college expenses, in addition to their hourly pay. That program is guaranteed for three months of continuous employment. During the peak holiday season, UPS will apply a $3.60 peak surcharge for packages that require additional handling, $31.45 for large packages, and $250.00 for packages that are over the maximum limit.

FedEx figures to handle about 510 million packages this holiday season, a jump of about three percent over last year. The split with Amazon earlier this year has resulted in lower volumes; some analysts expect that if not for the split, FedEx would have been handling closer to 540 million packages. The company is hiring 55,000 temporary employees for the holiday season, with the majority of those hires contributing to the FedEx Ground network. Similar to UPS, FedEx will not apply additional residential surcharges during the holiday season, except for those items that require additional care. The surcharges from FedEx include $17.60 for additional handling based on dimensions, $24.10 for additional handling based on weight, $16.10 for additional handling based on packaging, $110.00 for unauthorized packages, and $127.50 for oversized packages.

holiday logisticsThe Postal Service is gearing up for the busy season as well, as it gets ready to delivery nearly 15 billion pieces of mail and 800 million packages. To get ready for the rush, the USPS is keeping its seasonal hires similar to last year’s number of 35,000, which includes mail handlers, holiday clerk assistants, and mail processing clerks. All of these jobs start with pay of at least $16 hour. The Postal Service expanded its Sunday delivery operations to locations with high package volumes beginning November 24 and will continue this service throughout December. Like last year, the USPS is encouraging customers to take advantage of their Click and Ship options to order boxes and shipping labels online and schedule next day package pick-up. USPS shipping deadlines include December 20 for First-Class Mail and packages, December 21 for Priority Mail, and December 23 for Priority Mail Express.

Amazon has not officially announced the extent of its holiday hiring but has said it is hiring “tens of thousands” of temporary employees. Odds are the number will be close to the 100,000 temporary employees hired last year. All US employees will earn at least the company’s minimum wage of $15 an hour. Amazon is continuing to build out its logistics network to further reduce its reliance on UPS, FedEx, and the USPS. To that end, Amazon has doubled the number of trucks in its private fleet to 20,000 to meet the demand for next-day deliveries. The company is also testing a new service named Amazon Storage and Replenishment, which allows merchants to stage inventory close to Amazon’s delivery operation to enable quick replenishment of the products.

Target is hiring 125,000 seasonal employees at more than 1,800 stores across the country. These hires will focus on everything from customer service to stocking shelves. The company is also doubling its staff focused on fulfilling orders for Order Pickup and Drive Up services. Finally, 8,000 seasonal workers will be added to 39 distribution and fulfillment centers nationwide, where workers will process freight to stores and fulfill online orders. Target will also offer free two-day shipping until December 21st with no minimum purchase required but with some exclusions.

And finally, with less time on the holiday shopping schedule, Walmart kicked off the deals early. The company launched its holiday savings program on October 25. To make things as seamless as possible, Walmart announced a series of initiatives this holiday season including a scannable toy catalog, free next-day delivery, expanded check-out options in the store, and expanded in-store online ordering.

The holiday season is in full swing and looks to be a big one. The most recent estimates I have seen put total holiday spending above $1 trillion for the first time ever. To ensure packages are delivered on time, the seasonal hiring market has been robust. UPS, FedEx, and USPS alone have hired nearly 200,000 seasonal employees to sort, ship, and deliver packages. With improved infrastructure and a shorter holiday season this year, it will be a sprint to the finish.

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