Analysis-U.S. retailers want shoppers to help Santa with curbside pickup | Reuters | Business

By Melissa Fares, Nivedita Balu and Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) – As homebound Americans hit record online vacation purchases and snowy roads, compounding the blockade for shipping companies, retailers are luring shoppers to collect orders in person to ensure their stockings are full on Christmas morning.

The long awaited shipments of COVID-19 vaccines have further complicated the picture for retailers. They hope the drivers from Uber, DoorDash, and other gig economy companies will help them avoid a nightmare before Christmas.

The worst-case scenario is that “gifts could be in a retailer’s warehouse or in one of the hauliers’ sorting centers and not under the Christmas tree,” said Trevor Outman, co-managing director of Shipware.

After online spending spiked at the start of this year’s coronavirus pandemic, retailers and shippers have teamed up to get a head start on vacation promotions from October.

However, postponement remained just as much a tradition during the Christmas season as greeting cards or eggnog. Around 54 percent of buyers plan to buy their last gift in the week before Christmas. This is according to a poll published Thursday by the National Retail Federation, a retail group.

An expected surge in e-commerce coupled with heavy snowfall across the northeast could delay many shipments, carriers have warned. United Parcel Service, FedEx and DHL have enforced volume agreements with retailers, which means that sometimes parcels are not picked up.

The website of the Danish jewelry company Pandora A / S counts the days, hours, minutes and seconds for the delivery time on Christmas Eve: Thursday, December 17th, 11:59 pm EST. Last year, the retailer, who has worked with UPS for eight years, set a deadline of December 19th.

“In the last four to five days before Christmas, we are focusing on click-and-collect as the main tool to increase online sales,” Sid Keswani, president of Pandora Americas, told Reuters.

LVMH’s Walmart, Best Buy, Apple and Sephora are among more than two dozen major retailers, according to a Reuters tally, promoting turnaround times of just two hours for roadside pickup and online in-store pickup.

“We have reached a point where you are unlucky if you don’t shop early, especially given the big storm on the east coast,” said Gabriella Santaniello, founder of retail consultancy A Line Partners. “You have to drive on the side of the road. You have no choice. “

On Tuesday, Walmart wrote a blog post using roadside contactless pickup and delivery to alert readers that “there is still time to spend the holidays”.

A candy cane-colored banner on Macy’s website greets shoppers with “Get your presents by Christmas!” and offers three options: in-store pickup, contactless roadside pickup and a new same day delivery in collaboration with DoorDash.

The regional department store chain Belk is offering up to 15% discounts on purchases to encourage pickup. Rival JC Penney is offering 10% off click-and-collect orders.

Nordstrom, advertised free gift wrapping for buyers who pick up orders in stores.

Some say this approach runs counter to messages from officials advising people to stay home when coronavirus cases increase. Retailers have responded by outlining the security measures they have taken. DECK the halls with fast delivery

UPS, FedEx and USPS “are already reliant on sufficient capacity to handle 3 billion packages between now and Christmas, 800 million more than in the same period in 2019,” said Satish Jindel, president of delivery tracking and administration firm ShipMatrix .

“If they have to divert resources to transport Covid-19 vaccine shipments, it will add further delays in the delivery of online vacation orders,” Jindel said of UPS and FedEx.

The crisis gives Target and Walmart an opportunity to demonstrate their robust roadside operations. Target owns the same-day delivery company Shipt and Walmart has built its network of delivery drivers. Amazon also uses Gig-Flex drivers to improve deployment.

Gig delivery services with millions of drivers ready for last minute orders could play an oversized role, retail and shipping experts said.

Ubers drivers who struggled during the pandemic deliver home gifts. “Succulents to your sister” to “homemade cake to your nephew”, advertised the carpooling app.

Retailers like PetSmart, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, MAC and Sephora have strengthened same-day delivery partnerships with crowd-sourced companies like DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates.

FastAF, which uses micro-fulfillment centers to deliver hot products like Dyson Airwrap and Nintendo Switch to people in New York City and Los Angeles in two hours, said its partnership with DoorDash allows it to bypass traditional mail order companies.

“People who used to be taxi drivers or Uber drivers started … delivering packages,” said Andy Halliwell, UK-based international retail strategist for Publicis Sapient. “We see limos driving through streets to the brim of Amazon or ASOS packages.”

(Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York, Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; editing by Vanessa O’Connell and David Gregorio)

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