Good News, Bad News: Deliveries on Schedule, Volume Down

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Catalogers and carriers said this week that the holiday mailing season is going smoothly with most deliveries reaching homes on schedule. The news is bittersweet, however, since one reason for the smooth sailing is that sales are down for many direct marketers.

The U.S. Postal Service, for example, said volume this holiday season is more than 6 percent lower than last year. USPS carriers are handling 20 billion items between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"Everything's been going very smoothly," said Paul Vogel, vice president of network operations management at USPS. "The weather has been cooperating, we've had enough Christmas lift to take care of anything, and we don't have any delays anywhere in our network."

Vogel said the postal service geared up for extra holiday volume beginning Dec. 10 when it added more trucks to transport mail around the country.

Atlanta-based United Parcel Service and FedEx Corp., Memphis, TN, also said their deliveries were going smoothly. On its peak day of Dec. 18, UPS estimated it delivered more than 18 million air and ground packages globally. FedEx estimated it handled 6 million packages Dec. 19, its busiest day of the year. Neither company could offer final delivery numbers yesterday.

Catalogers said they have experienced few problems.

"We use USPS' Priority Mail for our parcel delivery, and we are seeing an average delivery time of three to four days, which is average for us," said Leslie Barnett, director of print production at Coldwater Creek, Sandpoint, ID.

Barnett also said the company is handling slightly fewer orders this Christmas season versus last.

However, the company is sending the same amount of direct mail catalogs this year, "and we are seeing quicker than normal delivery here," Barnett said. It usually takes Coldwater Creek catalogs three to five days to reach their destination this time of year, but it is taking two to three days this year.

"Our last several catalog drops have been delivered in-home one and two days earlier [than in the past]," Barnett said.

Martin A. Bernstein, postal relations manager for J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Plano, TX, also said shipments have gone smoothly.

"We are not experiencing any delays," said Bernstein, whose company uses USPS primarily for its Priority Mail product and UPS for ground delivery. "Our customer complaints have not increased at all, and most [complaints] are not about delivery service."


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