It’s just under five months until Christmas, and everyone’s starting to get excited. Well, almost everyone. Every year around this time, shipping carriers begin planning (and bracing themselves) for the holidays. The reality is, the holidays bring more than ugly sweater parties and extra servings of your grandma’s spiked egg nog. It also makes for tighter shipping schedules and much higher volumes of packages in transit. Even though we’re still in the midst of summer, it’s important to start thinking about the holidays now…especially since the 2019 holiday shipping season is bound to be a tight one.
Why 2019 Holiday Shipping Will Be Different than Recent Years
The 2019 holiday shipping schedule will be different from other years because this is the year that Thanksgiving shifts. Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November. Most years, this adds one extra shipping day until Christmas from the previous year. Every six years Thanksgiving shifts, with it falling 6 days later in November than the previous year. Last year Thanksgiving was November 22nd. Thanksgiving this year is set for November 28th. So, holiday shipping days this year are down to 26 from 32 last year.
This shift means that two of the biggest shipping days of the year—Black Friday and Cyber Monday—are happening 6 days later than last year. Cyber Monday will be December 2nd. This also means that this year’s holiday shipping schedule as a whole will have 6 fewer shipping days than normal. Popular promotions planned after Cyber Monday and before the crunch period, such as Amazon’s 12 Days of Christmas, could become difficult to position in the shorter calendar.
The 2019 Holiday Shipping Calendar
For your visual reference, we have included a calendar below. The 26 total shipping days are highlighted in blue. Note that the 2019 holiday shipping schedule begins on the day after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas Eve.
Fewer Shipping Days and Higher Package Volume Will Stretch Carriers Thin
While some people may think that 6 fewer shipping days during the holidays isn’t too big a deal, it is. eCommerce package volume continues to grow by 15% year over year. Shipping carriers will have less time to deliver more packages and meet that surging demand. Without those extra 6 days, carriers simply may not have enough drivers and vans to deliver holiday packages efficiently and on time. From where we’re standing, it’s obvious that 6 fewer shipping days plus higher package volume due to eCommerce growth could result in chaos. Bad weather could also create some unforeseen problems. A national blizzard might make for a white Christmas, but could make delivery performance even worse.
The last time this 6-day shift occurred was 2013, and it proved disastrous in the shipping community. When Thanksgiving shifted that year, Amazon and UPS missed tons of holiday deliveries, and had to issue refunds because they couldn’t meet demand. Now, shipping companies change their refund policy for the holiday period to limit the potential impact and liabilities.
Online Sellers Must Prepare for the Tighter Schedule and Set Expectations with Customers
If you’re selling products online, we suggest that you start preparing for this tighter holiday shipping schedule now. There are a few was that you can get ready for the mad season. The first way is to stock up on products you know that you’ll need to fulfill. There’s nothing worse than scrambling to reload inventory when you need to be fulfilling orders for customers as quickly as possible during a make-or-break time like the holidays.
Next, it always helps to familiarize yourself with the 2019 holiday shipping deadlines. Every shipping carrier has different holiday shipping deadlines and cut-off dates for their different services. You need to know them. Aiming to get all your shipping done by these holiday shipping deadlines is critical. These dates represent the cut-off you need to ship by for packages to arrive on or before December 24th!
Finally, one of the best things you can do to help yourself is to set realistic customer expectations. Managing your customers’ expectations is especially important during the holidays. Shipping carriers will already be stretched thin because of the rapidly growing eCommerce package volume that always spikes during November through December. Plus, even without the 6-day shift, packages often arrive later than usual during the winter due to unsafe weather conditions, like when USPS had to suspend mail delivery in January 2018 due to extreme cold weather. Customers’ expectations for delivery time continues to shrink. Making your customers aware that their packages may take longer to arrive is a simple, yet surprisingly effective way to get ahead of the problem. If you can get them to order early in the season, that’s even better.