Trusting shippers, Americans opt for last-minute Christmas shopping

With more and more customers trusting that shippers will deliver on time, online retailers in the US are seeing a boom in last-minute shopping this Christmas. New figures out yesterday show a 12% increase in online shopping so far this festive season, compared to November-December last year – despite the fact that two thirds of American shoppers have not yet completed their Christmas shopping.

eCommerce analysts comScore said yesterday that up until Monday (Dec 13), $23.82 billion had been spent in November and December 2010 through online retail sites in the US, including $5.31 billion last week alone.

The analysts said this week’s “Green Monday” has historically been the peak day for online retail in the US, and that this year the single day saw shoppers clicking through $954 million in sales.

But while some shippers have predicted this week to be their busiest yet – notably FedEx, which predicted that Monday (December 13) would prove to be the busiest day in its history – others are suggesting that the week of December 20 will prove to be the peak.

Retailers are set to add to the flurry of activity next week with Friday’s “Free Shipping Day”, a promotional event that last year saw 750 online retailers taking part including major store chains like Macy’s, JC Penney and Sears.

And with hopes of attracting more last minute sales, America’s largest online retailer Amazon has extended its deadline for its free shipping service to December 17, the date by which it will guarantee delivery by December 24.

Surveying 500 people, comScore said two-thirds had not completed their shopping, including 32% who had not had the time and 17% holding out for better deals or the thrill of the last minute chase.

Gian Fulgoni, chairman of Virginia-based comScore, said: “In the past, Green Monday was more reliably the heaviest day of the season, but in recent years we have seen heavy spending days occur even later into the season as consumers continue to gain confidence in retailers and shippers being able to deliver their gifts in time for Christmas.”

As with the US Postal Service, UPS said today that it was expecting next week to be its busiest of the year. A “five-day logistics miracle” will complete its delivery of 430 million packages between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, UPS said.

The company is expecting December 22 to prove its single busiest day, when its “brown-suited Santas” delivering more than 24 million packages around the world – 60% more than an average day for UPS.

Although it could not comment on customer sales figures, UPS spokesperson Elizabeth Rasberry told Post&Parcel that she believed online retail deliveries were “slightly up” on last year, and that internet shoppers in the US were taking advantage of the company’s ground shipping services.

“We are the go-to provider for the holidays and can expect most packages to be delivered in one to three business days, but we are urging customers to check on the ups.com website to check on delivery times for their locations,” added Ms Rasberry.

For extreme cases of last minute shopping, shoppers will need to opt for premium services such as the UPS Next Day Air service, which the company said would deliver packages mailed on December 23 in time for Christmas.

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