November 18th, 2015 | Miller Advisors

Holiday shoppers face higher shipping charges

The increasing popularity of online shopping means you’ll likely pay more to ship those tacky sweaters and fruitcakes this year.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans planning to shop online for holiday gifts, shipping charges and delivery dates may look a little different than in previous years, depending on when you “complete order.”

Procrastinators Beware

Most online holiday shopping and shipping occurs during two peak times, according to Raymond James transportation experts: Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving when many online retailers run promotions, and the “procrastination peak,” typically six to seven days before Christmas. In 2013 a surge of last-minute packages and bad weather meant some gifts didn’t make it under the Christmas tree. Shipping companies are implementing new technology and hiring more workers to avoid a repeat, but additional changes could be on the way in an attempt to flatten the two delivery peaks into multiple hills.

Timing and Pricing

Instead of Cyber Monday, online retailers may introduce Cyber Week spreading discounts, and the resulting deliveries, across more days. Another possibility is moving up the purchase-by date for guaranteed Christmas delivery from Dec. 22 or 23 to as early as Dec. 20, leaving online shoppers used to waiting until the last minute fighting crowds at the mall instead.

The number of packages delivered on peak days during the holidays is double that of a typical day, according to one shipping company. Retailers and shippers might change shipping prices based on forecasted volume for a particular delivery date, raising prices for delivery on busier days and lowering prices on slower days.

Increasing Demand

A consumer survey by the National Retail Federation, the retail industry’s largest trade group, predicts 46 percent of holiday shopping will take place online this year, up from 44 percent last year. Online spending by U.S. consumers has more than doubled since 2007, said Raymond James experts. A more confident and optimistic consumer, led by a stronger U.S. economy, an improving jobs market and lower gas prices, are likely to drive holiday sales. Although free shipping is a common feature of online shopping, many retailers require membership in clubs or programs or a minimum purchase amount to qualify.

Early bird shoppers who plan ahead this holiday season should get their packages in time and at low prices.

Source: Raymond James | Image: Getty