Shoppers will want to purchase their holiday gifts earlier than usual this year, as a major jump in online holiday shopping could complicate the delivery system.
Target, Walmart and other retailers have started offering free two-day delivery with no minimum purchase amounts for the holidays, a move to compete with Amazon’s Prime delivery options. Upping the ante, Amazon announced that Prime members would have access to free same-day delivery on some products and everyone else would receive free standard delivery this season.
“Where things will get interesting is the amount of congestion it causes in the network, especially when you compare the ground versus express networks,” said Sri Sridhar, CEO of lateshipment.com, one of the largest independent trackers of companies’ carrier packages.
While the service seems to all but guarantee timely delivery, experts say shoppers should still plan to purchase holiday gifts and send their packages early as an increase in online sales is likely to congest delivery networks.
That National Retail Federation expects consumers to spend about $720.89 billion this holiday season, up roughly 4.8 percent amid a healthy economy. That includes a 15 percent increase in e-commerce sales, as forecast by Adobe Analytics.
With the increased sales, United Parcel Service, FedEx and the United States Postal Service expect to handle a record number of packages this year.
While ground shipments typically have more volume, the major hike in free two-day shipments could lead to an increase in the number of delays among express shipments compared to the average holiday season, Sridhar said, reaching potentially 14 to 15 percent. Across all service types including standard shipping, about 15 to 23 percent of packages are usually delayed during the holidays.
“The easier technology makes it for consumers to shop; the sooner, the earlier, consumers really need to be willing to pick the gifts, order their gifts and be willing to accept the gifts. ... If they don’t do that, they just jeopardized being able to have the products they want delivered in time for Christmas,” said retail analyst Brittain Ladd.
During the last several holiday seasons, delivery companies such as UPS, FedEx and the United States Postal Service have struggled to keep up with a growing number of online holiday sales. Consumers last year had major concerns as the second week of December 2017 rolled around and the delivery companies still had major delays after a record Cyber Monday.
And this year, they plan to have record years again, with UPS expecting to handle more than 800 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, up from 700 million last year and nearly double the peak of most normal delivery days, said spokeswoman Kim Krebs.
FedEx also plans to deliver a record number of packages this year, with the Mondays between Black Friday and Christmas expected to be the busiest in FedEx history, spokesman Jonathan Lyons said.
“The biggest challenge that shipping carriers face during the holiday season, they know the rush is coming and forecast that it’s going to be record volume again, but then it’s almost impossible for them to find temporary resources ... so there is going to be a crunch,” Sridhar said.
UPS plans to hire 100,000 seasonal employees to work at its facilities, some of which are new or expanded. FedEx also plans to hire 55,000 over the next several weeks while operating extended shifts and increasing hours for current employees.
“The technology has simply made it easier to engage with retailers, but the supply chain, the logistics, the last-mile delivery, it doesn’t have an ability to become that much more efficient in that short period of a time. There’s only so many trucks; there’s only so many fulfillment centers, there’s only so many drivers,” Ladd said.
Retailers are exploring ways around the congested package carriers during the peak holiday season, including early Black Friday-like sales in the first days of November. The deals attempt to persuade consumers to shop early as a way to spread out the delivery congestion following the Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
They’re also experimenting with in-house delivery options and third parties like Shipt, Deliv and Instacart that primarily deliver groceries but could also handle general merchandise used for gifts.
And in the future, consumers can expect to hear about Christmas in February and March as retailers look to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine what consumers want for the holidays by July, which could eliminate inventory issues slowing down delivery, Ladd said.
“This is really an evolution; every year there is a change in technology, an improvement in the supply chain,” he said.
The wartime letters between Sgt. Warren Holly and his sweetheart, Jean Holly, are dated more than 60 years ago.
The mystery began about three weeks ago when Dan Heater bought a box of knickknacks from a stranger at Grumpy Jerry’s Flea Market. He found about 60 letters inside the box.
Heater read one letter and found terms of endearment and stories of war.
“He talked about the gunfire and everything and he kept saying he was OK. So I know he had to go through a lot,” said Heater.
But Heater didn't want to go much further so as not to invade the privacy of the couple.
Every letter is addressed from Warren Holly to Jean Holly except one written from her to his commander, pleading for him to be moved from the front line.
Heater wonders if the sergeant ever made it home and back to his sweetheart.
“I do wonder, and I hope he did. If the man's alive, I would love to meet him,” Heater said.
Heater said he wants all the attention he can get for the letters, and hopes someone who sees them can help get them back to the Holly family.
One week after he mocked Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who lost an eye in Afghanistan, on "Saturday Night Live," comedian Pete Davidson issued an apology – and got a little payback.
"In what I'm sure was a huge shock to people who know me, I made a poor choice last week," Davidson said on Saturday's "Weekend Update" segment. "I made a joke about Lt. Cmdr. Dan Crenshaw, and on behalf of the show and myself, I apologize."
Davidson was referring to his remarks from the show's Nov. 3 broadcast, in which he said Crenshaw, who wears a patch over his right eye, looks like "a hit man in a porno movie." The joke immediately drew harsh criticism online, prompting a rebuke from the National Republican Congressional Committee.
"I mean this from the bottom of my heart: It was a poor choice of words," Davidson continued Saturday. "The man is a war hero, and he deserves all the respect in the world. And if any good came of this, maybe it was that for one day, the left and the right finally came together to agree on something – that I'm a [expletive]."
"Ya think?" Crenshaw said, sliding in behind the "Weekend Update" desk in a surprise appearance.
Crenshaw accepted Davidson's apology, then got a chance to take a few jabs at Davidson.
"This is Pete Davidson," Crenshaw joked as a photo of Davidson appeared on the screen. "He looks like if the meth from 'Breaking Bad' was a person."
Crenshaw also said Davidson looks like "a Troll doll with a tapeworm" and "Martin Short in 'The Santa Clause 3.'"
"By the way, one of these people was actually good on 'SNL,'" Crenshaw quipped.
Then the bit took a serious turn.
"There's a lot of lessons to learn here. Not just that the left and right can still agree on some things, but also this: Americans can forgive one another," Crenshaw said. "We can remember what brings us together as a country and still see the good in each other."
Crenshaw continued: "This is Veterans Day weekend, which means that it's a good time for every American to connect with a veteran. Maybe say, 'Thanks for your service.' But I would actually encourage you to say something else: Tell a veteran, 'Never forget.' When you say, 'Never forget' to a veteran, you are implying that, as an American, you are in it with them, not separated by some imaginary barrier between civilians and veterans, but connected together as grateful fellow Americans. We'll never forget the sacrifices made by veterans past and present. We'll never forget those we lost on 9/11, heroes like Pete's father. So I'll just say, 'Pete, never forget.'"
"Never forget," Davidson replied, shaking Crenshaw's hand. "And that is from both of us."
>> Watch the segment here (WARNING: Viewer discretion advised.)
World leaders gathered by the dozens Sunday to mark the end of World War I 100 years ago, turning Paris into the epicenter of global commemorations.
Deputies in Rowan County, North Carolina, said an 11-year-old is facing felony charges after they investigated two separate cases where parents reported finding needles or pins in their children's Halloween candy.
Investigators said the 11-year-old, who visits relatives in the neighborhood where the metal-laced candy was found, has been referred to the Rowan County Juvenile Court. The child is facing charges of distribution of certain food at Halloween containing foreign objects.
Police said at least two families found needles in their child's candy.
Deputies said the 11-year-old is going through a mental evaluation before the court proceedings begin.
A 12-year-old boy had to go to the hospital on Halloween night after biting into a Snickers candy bar that had a pin in it, his father said.
There was another pin found in a different piece of candy, too, Howard Peacock Jr. told officers. Peacock said he took his children trick-or-treating in the Grace Ridge subdivision.
Sheriff deputies said the candy in question came from the Grace Ridge subdivision, south of Salisbury, where hundreds of children trick-or-treat every year.
Peacock learned of the news that a child was allegedly the culprit.
A detective showed Peacock a video from an app that was not identified. In that video, it detailed how to tamper with candy bars.
"I just freaked out,” Peacock said a week after Halloween. “I just couldn’t believe it, that kids would be able to pull this up and see stuff like that.”
Peacock said he has not heard from the family of the suspect, but he said he understands because they must be going through a difficult time.
He hopes the child gets the help he needs.
"We forgive that boy for doing what he (did), and I hope he gets all the help the good Lord can give him," Peacock said.
On Nov. 1, another parent saw the story about Peacock's child on Facebook.
Realizing their children also trick-or-treated in Grace Ridge, they checked their kids' candy and found a mini Snickers bar with two small metal objects that looked like needles inside.
Peacock said his children started eating the candy when they got home from trick-or-treating. He said he didn’t check the candy because they have trick-or-treated in that neighborhood before, so he didn’t have any reason to be concerned.
The boy had to go to the hospital but was not seriously injured.
“They took a urine test and (did) X-rays, make sure he hadn't swallowed nothing else, another pin or something else lodged,” Peacock said.
The boy’s mouth was a little sore because the pin went behind his two front teeth.
WSOC-TV spoke with some local families who said they had more than 100 children come to their doors Halloween night. Many said they threw out their Halloween candy.
"I just hope they catch whoever did it. That's the first thing. Somebody needs to be made an example of. This is bad," father Jeff Miller said.
"It's really terrifying. He's 9 and he was going through the candy before I got a chance to check it, and what if he bit right in and a needle went through his mouth?" mother Tara Casper said.
Deputies said they identified a suspect over the weekend. They said the investigation indicated the 11-year-old inserted the metal objects into the candy through the wrappers with the intent of it being passed out to trick-or-treaters.
No minimum purchase is required.
"With free shipping, your order will be delivered five to eight business days after all your items are available to ship, including pre-order items," according to Amazon's website.
The company has not yet released an end date to this promotion.
Click here for more information.
As technology advances and retail grows more competitive, the shopping experience is changing.
Anticipating a 15 percent increase in online orders this year, several retailers have updated shipping standards for the season, including Target’s free two-day shipping on any orders regardless of price. Target is among many retailers picking up advance shipping services, a deal made famous when Amazon began offering it for Prime members.2. Virtual reality for shopping
Kettering-based Marxent has developed virtual reality to help Macy’s customers visualize furniture within their homes. Beck Besecker, founder and CEO of Marxent, said a growing number of apps are also allowing shoppers to visualize products without ever having to step out the door.
Virtual reality is also being used to teach store workers how to handle crowds during the holiday. The technology, used at 198 Walmart training academies, including in West Chester Township, has helped Walmart develop new strategies to make holiday shopping more efficient.4. Amazon Alexa devices
Amazon’s voice technology gives consumers the ability to purchase their items by simply asking an Alexa-enabled device to purchase an item, and Amazon will take care of the rest.
Consumers who choose to brave the crowds at stores this holiday season can also expect a quicker trip, with new mobile checkout technology debuting in both Walmart and Target.
The mobile payment options are expected to keep customers from waiting in long checkout lines, with Walmart’s Check Out With Me and Target’s Skip-the-Line giving shoppers a chance to check out with store employees strategically placed in the busiest parts of stores throughout the holiday season.
“One of the things that we’ve seen over the course of the past few years is that customers are really wanting to get in and get out pretty quickly,” said Tim Mahan, the western Ohio e-commerce manager.
Model and television personality Heidi Klum dressed as Princess Fiona from “Shrek” at her 19th annual Halloween party Oct. 31, 2018, in New York.
Walmart’s new mobile checkout technology may keep you from waiting in long lines this holiday season.
Check Out With Me will launch Thursday at stores across the nation, giving shoppers a chance to skip long checkout lines and opt for mobile checkout assisted by associates in the busiest parts of stores.
The associate will be able to swipe credit cards and offer receipts just like at checkout lanes.
“Every day we’re committed to providing customers with the broadest assortment of quality products at great prices, but, during the holidays, we take that promise up a notch,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S.
The retailer is also launching store maps on Walmart’s app to help shoppers find gifts and other holiday purchases more easily.
And for customers who don’t want to leave their home at all, Walmart has added new editorial and curated content to its website to refresh new deals regularly.
“With new convenient ways to buy, we’ve never been in a better position to help our customers deliver for their families than this holiday season,” Bratspies said.
Have you peeped Google lately? It’s all about Halloween.
The search engine site, which sometimes uses its homepage to observe special occasions, is giving a special nod to the spooky holiday with an interactive, multiplayer game.
The game is called “The Great Ghoul Duel,” where players compete as two teams of four. Each group must collect the spirit flames that are scattered around the map and return them to their homes before the moon is gone. But of course there are some obstacles along the way as players can steal flames from their opponents.
Those who snatch up the most spirit flames will unlock special powers like speed boosts, night vision, magnetism and more. Each match lasts only about two minutes. You can play with family and friends by sending an invitation link or can compete against randomized players across the globe.
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