Shippers: Healthy Holidays, Late Deliveries Not Their Fault

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Despite Internet shoppers' tales of late deliveries, poor customer service and out-of-stock merchandise, the country's three largest package shippers this week reported strong holiday shipping numbers and said online purchases were responsible for much of the growth this year.

Analysts, however, still expect the United Parcel Service, Atlanta, to announce an average rate increase of 2 percent to 3 percent the week of Dec. 27, that will go into effect in February. The UPS has raised rates at the end of each calendar year for more than a decade.

UPS, the U.S. Postal Service and FDX Corp. have prepared for the biggest holiday season ever and said that any problems online retailers are having are not related to their delivery services.

"If e-tailers can get their merchandise to a loading dock and call UPS, I can assure you, it's going through," said UPS spokesman Norman Black.

USPS spokeswoman Monica Hand said, "These problems we've been hearing about are not delivery problems at all. They are really supply-and-demand problems. When you get down to it, if the company doesn't have it to send out, then it won't get there."

"There is no question that e-commerce is having a significant impact [on our business]," Black said. "We are seeing the effect of e-commerce driving volume more so this year than last year. And we see it playing across the entire system of air and ground. If last year was the year that everybody got over their fear of ordering things over the Internet, this year is the year that the convenience factor is kicking in and taking hold."

Instead of "people just sticking their toe in and ordering one or two things over the Internet, this year they are going in and ordering three, four, five, six, 10, 20 things from different e-retailers," Black said.

UPS delivered more than 18 million packages globally today -- its peak day -- up from the 17.4 million packages delivered for the same day last year. The shipper also said UPS will surpass last year's 307 million packages delivered globally during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

At the USPS, early indications show a noticeable increase in both parcel shipments, Express Mail and Priority Mail deliveries over last year, and some of this growth is being attributed to online sales. However, Kim Parks, manager of marketing and strategy of expedited/package services at the USPS, said no specific numbers are available.

Federal Express, Memphis, TN, is reporting healthy numbers as well and attributing some of its success to e-commerce growth. The shipper's peak day is Dec. 22, and the company should deliver 4.5 million packages this year. Typically, FedEx delivers 3.1 million packages per day.

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