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Speedy is a top goal in retail this holiday season

Sellers aim to do better than in 2013

Amazon expanded its Sunday delivery service, adding more than 10 distribution centers and 15 smaller sorting centers. It also expanded same-day delivery to more cities.
Amazon expanded its Sunday delivery service, adding more than 10 distribution centers and 15 smaller sorting centers. It also expanded same-day delivery to more cities.(Associated Press/File 2010)

NEW YORK — A procrastinator’s holiday wish come true: Presents ordered at the last minute can now show up under the Christmas tree that same day.

Amazon, Target, Macy’s and other retailers are offering speedier delivery, including overnight and same-day options, that will continue past the holidays.

The focus on faster shipping is one way retailers are catering to shoppers who have become increasingly finicky and impatient. Since the recession, it’s not enough to get lower prices; shoppers want the deepest discounts.

And when it comes to ordering online, orders need to be shipped fast.

‘‘I’ll pay extra to get something right away,’’ said Wendy Connors, a 47-year-old mother of three who lives in Menlo Park, Calif.

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Quick delivery is important for retailers as they head into the holiday shopping season, a time when they can make up to 40 percent of their annual sales. US shoppers are expected to spend about $61 billion online in November and December, according to the research firm comScore.

Retailers can’t afford a repeat of last year, when UPS and FedEx failed to deliver some packages by Christmas because of poor weather and overloaded systems, causing angry customers. Neither of the top two deliverers said how many packages were delayed, but noted it was a small share of overall shipments.

A Forrester Research analyst, Sucharita Mulpuru, fears the industry could be ill-prepared for the influx of online ordering again this year. She points out that the growth UPS and FedEx are forecasting this season is below growth estimates for online spending by the retail industry.

UPS forecasts it will deliver 585 million packages in December, an 11 percent increase over 2013, and FedEx expects to deliver 290 million packages, an 8.8 percent increase from last year. But comScore expects online spending will grow 16 percent, to about $61 billion.

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It’s not a direct apples-to-apples comparison, Mulpuru conceded, but the difference in estimated percentage growth could spell trouble for shippers and retailers.

‘‘I don’t know if there’s enough bandwith . . . to accommodate full demand,’’ she said.

Retailers are hoping that speedier delivery options will help spread out shipments throughout the season so that there’s not a big crunch toward the end, as there was last year.

Same-day delivery is mainly available in big cities, but elsewhere retailers still are working to cut delivery times.