Online shopping can be both a blessing and a curse during the holiday season. On the one hand, we can avoid all those pesky lines and slow-moving consumers at brick-and-mortar retailers. But on the other, we have to rely on retailers and delivery companies to ship all of those gifts and deliver them on time. Unfortunately, at least one major shipping service has admitted that it was caught off guard by unprecedented demand. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, a UPS spokeswoman said that “the volume of air packages in the UPS system did exceed capacity.”
According to IBM Digital Analytics, online retail sales increased 37% over last year during the weekend before Christmas as last-minute shoppers rushed to beat the clock. Timely shipping this time of year is never a guarantee, especially when you take into account the potential for severe weather and user error, but the primary issue in 2013 might have been the sheer number of last-minute orders.
Retailers are now dealing with the fallout of a massive number of late deliveries. Amazon has refunded shipping costs, Kohl’s has promised to pay the full price of items that didn’t arrive on time, and Groupon has given $25 gift cards to affected customers.
“Retailers think they can take orders up to the last minute, but they just can’t pick and pack fast enough,” said Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru.