Hol­i­day ship­ping dead­lines start this week, with Thursday be­ing the cut­off for Postal Ser­vice ground ser­vice.

Ama­zon de­buts Christ­mas de­liv­ery of items bought just the eve be­fore

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Ta­mara Chuang

Ama­zon’s new warehouse, opened in Aurora this sum­mer, won’t help Colorado res­i­dents re­ceive last-minute gifts. But Coloradans can ben­e­fit from Ama­zon’s in­vest­ment to de­liver pack­ages faster than seems pos­si­ble for any re­tailer. If you’re a last-minute shop­per for friends who live in one of nearly 30 metro areas na­tion­wide, Ama­zon prom­ises Christ­mas de­liv­ery for or­ders re­ceived by 9:45 p.m. On Christ­mas Eve. “I def­i­nitely think it’s con­ve­nient for con­sumers. But do they want it? I think if you ask them in ad­vance, most will say they don’t in­tend to buy gifts at 9:45 p.m. on Christ­mas Eve,” said Peter Gold, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing with Shop.com, a branch of the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion that also sells items on­line. “But pay heed to it. Ama­zon isn’t known for be­ing a fol­lower. They’re a trail­blazer. Any on­line re­tailer would be fool­ish to not pay at­ten­tion. I think it’s a lit­tle ex­treme but it’s the arc of the evo­lu­tion.”

Hol­i­day ship­ping dead­lines start this week, with the U.S. Postal Ser­vice ground­ship­ping cut­off com­ing Thursday. But many are push­ing dead­lines, it seems. Macy’s is of­fer­ing same-de­liv­ery on Christ­mas Eve for in-stock items or­dered by 10 a.m. lo­cal time. Sev­eral other re­tail­ers plan to ac­cept Christ­mas Eve or­ders too — if cus­tomers pick up items in stores.

Shop­pers at Greenwood Vil­lage’s eBags have un­til Tues­day to or­der. But if they live near the com­pany’s In­di­anapo­lis, Ind. warehouse, they can or­der un­til Dec. 22, said co-founder Peter Cobb, call­ing it “our ver­sion of Prime Now,” Ama­zon’s one- to two-hour de­liv­ery ser­vice.

“I think for Ama­zon, clearly, if you go to their site, it’s all about their Echo, their Tap,

their Kin­dles. They’re push­ing their pri­vate la­bel goods,” Cobb said of a fi­nan­cial rea­son why Ama­zon pro­motes late or­ders. “No ques­tion for them it’s ex­pen­sive. You’ve got all those trucks go­ing out on Christ­mas, the over­time. They’re bet­ting on the fu­ture that this is some­thing cus­tomers will get used to. When we started eBags (in 1999), to have some­thing de­liv­ered in 10 days was like ‘Oh, my God, some­thing is com­ing to my doorstep.’ We’ve come a long way.”

Mail car­ri­ers mean­while haven’t ex­tended dead­lines be­cause they’re tack­ling dou­ble-digit pack­age growth. FedEx Corp. and United Par­cel Ser­vice said they ex­pect to han­dle a record num­ber of pack­ages this sea­son.

The U.S. Postal Ser­vice added an ex­tra de­liv­ery day in most cities, in­clud­ing Den­ver, in re­cent weeks, said David Ru­pert, a USPS spokesman.

“We are de­liv­er­ing on Sun­days to keep up with de­liv­ery vol­ume,” Ru­pert said. “It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily shave a day off the whole sys­tem, but if your par­cel is one of those de­liv­ered, it does save a day from nor­mal de­liv­ery.”

Ama­zon’s ex­treme dead­line gives cus­tomers up to two ex­tra days than they had in 2010 to or­der gifts. Also, it’s free to Prime mem­bers, or those who pay $99 an­nual dues. Ama­zon has also in­vested heav­ily in de­liv­ery to get or­ders to shop­pers faster, uti­liz­ing air­planes, truck trail­ers and drones, and even hir­ing con­trac­tors to use their own cars. Its new Colorado sort­ing cen­ter, which opened in June, re­ceives wrapped pack­ages trucked in from Ama­zon distri­bu­tion cen­ters na­tion­wide, sorts them by ZIP code and then trans­ports items to neigh­bor­hood post of­fices to speed up res­i­den­tial de­liv­ery.

While Ama­zon doesn’t yet of­fer its Prime Now de­liv­ery in Den­ver, its pres­ence here has sped up de­liv­ery to cus­tomers, said Ash­ley Robin­son, an Ama­zon spokes­woman.

“With the ad­di­tion of the new sor­ta­tion cen­ter in Aurora, Ama­zon is now able to pro­vide cus­tomers through­out the greater Den­ver metropolitan re­gion later or­der­ing cut­off times as well as Sun­day de­liv­ery,” she said.

The post of­fice, too, added a fancy new par­cel-sort­ing ma­chine this year at its mail fa­cil­ity near Northfield. The 5-mile con­veyor belt speeds up de­liv­ery times, sort­ing small pack­ages by ZIP code. (Watch the be­hind-the-scenes route a pack­age takes from or­der to de­liv­ery in a new Tech+ video: dpo.st/techvideos.)

Still, the speed boost doesn’t dras­ti­cally change de­liv­ery times at this time of year; Thursday is the first ground-ship­ping dead­line for Christ­mas de­liv­ery. The Postal Ser­vice ex­pects a 12 per­cent in­crease in vol­ume from last year to 750 mil­lion parcels na­tion­wide this sea­son. It’s al­ready past that in Colorado. Up 17 per­cent so far, the Colorado of­fice de­liv­ered 3.25 mil­lion parcels last week, Ru­pert said.

“I think the vol­ume has just in­creased so much it’s sim­ply lev­el­ing the load,” Ru­pert said of the new ma­chines and tech­nol­ogy.

Of course, if you find your­self emp­ty­handed on Christ­mas Eve just hours be­fore you in­tend to give some­one a gift, sev­eral brick-and-mor­tar stores will be open.

Ac­cord­ing to BestBlack­Fri­day.com, Home De­pot, Kmart, Sears, Macy’s and Toys R Us are ac­cept­ing or­ders on­line on Christ­mas Eve — if you or­der early enough in the day and pick gifts up in per­son.

But Christ­mas Eve or­ders for Christ­mas Day de­liv­er­ies are lim­ited to Ama­zon, although the ser­vice will prob­a­bly catch on, said Phillip Den­gler, co-owner of BestBlack­Fri­day.com, which for the first year put to­gether a hol­i­day ship­ping dead­line list due to cus­tomer re­quests.

“I would hon­estly con­sider it a lux­ury. I don’t think it’s 100 per­cent nec­es­sary,” Den­gler said. “But we feel this trend should be­come more pop­u­lar. We think that even­tu­ally Wal­mart will do it too be­cause Wal­mart has been fol­low­ing Ama­zon.”

Katie Wood, The Den­ver Post

The U.S. Postal Ser­vice added a new par­cel-sort­ing ma­chine this year at its mail fa­cil­ity near Northfield. The Postal Ser­vice ex­pects a 12 per­cent in­crease from last year to 750 mil­lion parcels na­tion­wide this sea­son.

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