Retailers, carriers preparing for ‘unprecedented peak’ in online shopping, shipping demand

NEW YORK — Retailers and carriers are preparing for an online holiday shopping surge that could tax shipping networks and lead to delivery delays.

FedEx and UPS are ramping up their holiday hiring while expanding their weekend operations and asking retailers to use their shipping network when there is more slack. And stores are pushing shoppers to buy early and are expanding services like curbside pickup to minimize the need for delivery.

“We are warmed up for what we’re calling the ship-a-thon,” said Brie Carere, chief marketing and communications officer at FedEx. “Like everything else in 2020, this is going to be an unprecedented peak season. We’ve actually seen three years of growth in e-commerce pulled forward. So we are expecting a ton of volume.”

Carole B. Tome, CEO of UPS, told analysts last month she expects “a pretty peaky peak.”

Amazon, which has been growing its own delivery network so it doesn’t have to rely as much on UPS and the U.S. Postal Service, is nonetheless warning shoppers not to wait until the last minute to buy gifts.

“It’s going to be tight for everyone and we will all be stretched,” said Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief financial officer. “And it’s advantageous to the customer, and probably the companies, for people to order early this year.”

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