After months of extreme disruption and challenge, retailers badly need their holiday season to go right. Unfortunately, they might find themselves confounded by a thorny problem borne of pandemic-related safety concerns: A crush of e-commerce orders on a scale the industry has never seen, putting stress on their supply chains and those of their shipping partners. The result could be a multitude of late packages and frustrated customers, a potential mess that has been dubbed Shipageddon.
Package carriers FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. say they’re prepared for the onslaught. They may not have envisioned the pandemic, but they’ve spent billions over the past few years preparing for a more e-commerce heavy world, including adding expanded weekend service and investing in automation tools. They’re also bulking up their staff: FedEx and UPS plan to hire a combined 170,000 seasonal workers this year. Even so, e-commerce growth is expected to be explosive this holiday season, and it will be especially difficult to predict purchasing rhythms this time around.