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Business, Energy, Numbers, STEM

NUMBERS: Package Delivery for 2014 Holiday Season

IMG_1150It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving and what is known as Black Friday madness or a major shopping day of the year. I am not shopping! I am at home, working, on several projects. Some of my family and friends started their holiday shopping as early as 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day at K-Mart and a few other stores, or after 6 p.m. as other retailers opened their doors to get a jump on this annual tradition.

Having worked for UPS for two holiday seasons, I have a vested interest in knowing how the package delivery service and e-commerce are holding up under the weight of shop-until-you drop customers. While it may not be obvious to all, planning for package deliveries during the last five to six weeks of the year is a monumental task that the three largest delivery services, United States Postal Service (USPS), FedEx, and UPS, begin on January 1st of each year, if not the day after Christmas.

According to USA Today [Ref 1], UPS expects to deliver more than 585 million packages during the holidays, 11% more than last year. In addition to some major changes in their processes and infrastructure, UPS expects to hire up to 95,000 seasonal workers, 10,000 more than last year. And what is in the back of the mind of permanent and temporary workers of each organization? Peak Day! Peak Day for UPS is December 22nd when the shipping giant expects to handle 34 million packages worldwide.

Similar to UPS, FedEx is adding more than 50,000 seasonal workers for positions that include package handlers, helpers and drivers. The company expects to deliver more than 290 million packages and forecasts its peak delivery day as December 15th when its workforce is expected to deliver 22.6 million packages – more than twice their daily average of 10.5 million packages. [Ref 2]

Even more interesting is that FedEx relies on a team of 15 full-time meteorologists that monitor the weather 24/7, and provide three weather forecasts each day. If you remember the challenges of last winter’s frequent snow storms that resulted in traffic and delivery slowdowns across most of the U.S., these weather scientists are not only earning their income but providing value added knowledge for this package delivery company.

Earlier this month, USPS announced plans to deliver packages seven days per week in major cities and volume areas from November 17th thru Christmas Day, December 25th. USPS expects to move 450 to 470 million packages this holiday season and anticipates a 12 percent annual increase over last year’s numbers. USPS has hired about 30,000 temporary holiday workers.

Like FedEx and UPS, USPS has made a number of changes to deliver this holiday season. One of these improvements is an enhancement to their online tracking services that I am using this week to my delight. I have a standard delivery parcel in transit since Monday, and I love being able to track it just like I would a FedEx or UPS shipment. My package left Phoenix and went to Bell Gardens, CA, and then onto Greensboro, NC where it spent Thanksgiving. This morning it left the Greensboro hub and is headed for its delivery destination.

The growth in online retailing, along with the unexpected dividend of some of the lowest gas prices that many of us have seen in four or five years, appear to be adding up to a sweet retail holiday season for lots of folks. Oh by the way, GasBuddy.com reports the national average cost of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.791 per gallon, almost 50 cents lower than one year ago.

As I type, CNN is reporting that more Americans are feeling that the U.S. economy is turning the corner and heading in the right direction, and this could be a reason for the upturn in holiday spending……maybe! From my view point, it’s all good!

Sources Cited:

    1. More Retailers Offering Last Minute Christmas Deliveries, Natalie DiBlasio, USA Today, November 13, 2014, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/11/13/retailers-delivery-free-ups-usps-fedex/18926991/
    2. Holiday Shipping: Plan Early and Avoid Delivery Plans, Angelique Soenarie, The Arizona Republic, November 22, 2014, http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2014/11/22/holiday-shipping-do-early-avoid-pain/19432125/
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About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.

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