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Online Shopping Surge Strains UPS

Unless retailers have spent much of 2015 under a rock with poor Wi-Fi, it shouldn’t be a surprise to any brand that shoppers are wild about online orders this holiday season. However, just how big of a surge this digital shift is turning out to be has thrown a few wrenches into some of the smoothest operating carriers on the market.

The Wall Street Journal reported that UPS is particularly struggling to keep up with the larger number of online orders passing through its system. During the first week of December 2014, UPS managed to deliver 97 percent of its packages on time — the same as UPS’s non-seasonal average. However, the increase in online orders in 2015 has dropped that figure to just 91 percent during the same time period, ShipMatrix told WSJ.

A UPS spokesman told WSJ that while the carrier did budget for an increase in traffic during the holiday shopping season, customers have managed to outstrip those predictions fairly easily. In fact, despite preparing for 10 percent more packages in 2015, UPS has still been caught napping as customers click their way to crossed-off shopping lists.

"Volumes are coming in much higher than planned,” John Haber, CEO of retail shipping consultant Spend Management Experts, told WSJ. “You can only process so much volume so quickly."

With Christmas a handful of days away, UPS and other carriers still have time to deal with shipping delays and increased traffic, but if the calendar pages keep falling away and customers haven’t received their time-sensitive deliveries, UPS might have to answer to both dissatisfied customers and the frustrated brands that have to take an inadvertent PR hit.

After all, as the retail world grows smaller and more connected, the weak links in the chain get harder and harder to hide, especially during a holiday shopping season when shoppers view delivery dates as iron-clad promises.

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