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Consumers should do their holiday shopping 'now,' says e-commerce logistics expert

Julie Hyman
·2 min read

Shoppers shouldn’t waste any time buying holiday gifts online this year, with shipping companies faced with unprecedented traffic, worker and equipment shortages, and potential delivery delays.

“The key message is consumers should shop early. How early? Now,” Gregg Zegras, president of global e-commerce at mailing and shipping services company Pitney Bowes, told Yahoo Finance Live. “No one wants to disappoint little Jill or John, with their Christmas gifts. Don’t get too close to the middle of December [to order gifts online]. It doesn’t mean if you order in the middle of December it won’t arrive. You’re just taking more and more risk.”

Amazon is already experiencing delivery delays of some products, Bloomberg reported, citing third-party merchants who sell via the e-commerce giant. Some products that are typically delivered in a day or two are currently taking a week or longer.

FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2018, file photo Amazon Prime boxes are loaded on a cart for delivery in New York.  Slow shipping times and sold out items have plagued Amazon since the coronavirus pandemic caused a rush of orders from home-bound people. But the world’s largest online retailer isn’t the only place to shop online. With their doors closed, many physical retailers are expanding curbside pickup, which lets people buy something online and pick it up at the parking lot. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Slow shipping times and sold out items have plagued Amazon since the coronavirus pandemic caused a rush of orders from home-bound people. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Online sales during the holidays could rise 20% to 30% from last year to as much as $218.4 billion, forecast the National Retail Federation. This is at a time when shipping companies like UPS and FedEx are still scrambling to find delivery vans for the season, reported Bloomberg.

Just as the public health community has been trying to “flatten the curve” in terms of coronavirus spread, retailers have been trying to change customer habits, spreading out shopping so they’re not overwhelmed. So far, said Zegras, it’s not really working.

“Our research is indicating that no matter how hard they have tried, a lot of the shopping is still in front of us. 66% of consumers are still planning on shopping as they get into Black Friday and Cyber Monday and up until the Christmas holiday,” he said. “Flattening the curve has been a bit of a challenge for the industry, who has really taught the consumer to expect these promotional windows, and it is really hard to change that behavior.”

But change it they should — if they want to get their packages in time.

Julie Hyman is the co-anchor of Yahoo Finance Live, weekdays 9am-11am ET.

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