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
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.”
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.