Curbside pickup to help keep things moving for holiday shopping season

An expected online shopping boom this holiday season means more packages, and it will take a manpower to get them to your doorstep.

Retailers and freight forwarders are preparing by expanding and discontinuing shipping networks, including in Nevada. Meanwhile, stores are pushing vacation shoppers to buy early and expand services like roadside pickup to minimize the need for deliveries.

“We are warmed up to what we call Ship-a-Thon,” said Brie Carere, FedEx chief marketing and communications officer. “Like everything else in 2020, this will be an unprecedented high season. We have actually seen three years of growth in e-commerce. So we expect a lot of volume. “

Online boost

For some shoppers, the retail tradition of going to crowded stores during the holiday season has lost its appeal thanks to the pandemic. More and more people are shopping online, and selling online this year is likely to break the brands set in previous years.

According to Adobe Analytics, which tracks sales at 80 of the top 100 US online retailers, customers are expected to spend $ 189 billion on online vacation sales this year. This corresponds to an increase of 33 percent compared to the previous year. That equates to two years of sales growth in vacation e-commerce postponed to a season.

Forrester, a technology research firm, estimates online sales will grow 24 percent year over year to $ 173 billion in 2020.

“The pandemic continues to change consumer behavior, and we’ve seen a significant increase in online sales this year,” said Sucharita Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, in a statement. “We see this trend continue throughout the 2020 holiday season and through 2021 as social distancing measures persist and limit the number of shoppers in the store.”

Shipping surge

Shippers and stores have also strengthened their logistics networks to cope with the rush of online orders.

Carole B. Tome, UPS CEO, told analysts last month that she was expecting “a pretty sharp peak”.

UPS hires 100,000 seasonal employees for the holidays. Company spokesman Matthew O’Connor said UPS will “move package volume from the busiest shipping days to full weekend capacity.”

The US Postal Service is also preparing.

Rod Spurgeon, a USPS spokesman in Nevada, said he didn’t have specific projections for vacation package volume, but he said annual volume had increased nearly 2 billion over the past five years.

“The postal service expects parcel volumes to grow this holiday season,” he said.

The agency continues to hire for temporary positions across Nevada, he said.

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Competing shipping company FedEx announced that it will increase its seasonal workforce by around 27 percent to 70,000 employees. The company hired 120 new employees this month for its new North Las Vegas facility.

Some e-commerce retailers like Amazon have built their own delivery network so they don’t have to rely so much on UPS and the postal service.

Amazon announced in late October that it will be hiring 100,000 seasonal workers this year, including 1,000 locations across Nevada to pick, pack, and deliver customer orders.

Lisa Guinn, an Amazon spokeswoman, said of downtown North Las Vegas that “larger buildings can ship up to several hundred thousand items a day during our peak holiday season”.

Online returns are also expected to increase this year with more ecommerce sales. One company, goTRG, opened a new warehouse in Las Vegas to cope with the rush for vacation returns.

Roadside offers are rising

In recent years, in addition to their distribution centers, many retailers have been using their own physical stores to fulfill online orders. But now they’re designating some of these deals to handle even higher volumes.

Retailers can’t afford to upset buyers with late deliveries or gifts arriving after Christmas, so step up their game.

Due to the pandemic, companies have accelerated in-store and roadside pick-up services, said Tom Arnold, professor of finance at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business.

“Retailers that still have a physical presence are promoting roadside pickup so they don’t have to come to the store,” he said. “That saves space for people who want to shop traditionally.”

Kohl’s said it had tens of thousands of items on its website for roadside pickup. The retailer doubled the number of car parking spaces in its stores to support increased demand. Target also doubled the number of parking spaces for its drive-on services to 8,000.

Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, said it is making space in 42 regional distribution centers to set up pop-up e-commerce distribution centers to meet the growing demand for online ordering this holiday season. The company said it has hired 700 people in Nevada as personal buyers to help with pickup and delivery services.

Bryan Wachter, a spokesman for the Retail Association of Nevada, said curb and online delivery services are the new norm.

“All of a sudden we are being forced or encouraged to use these services at much faster speeds,” he said. “And we’re only just beginning to see results from retailers moving into this space.”

Contact Jonathan Ng at [email protected] Follow @ByJonathanNg on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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