2021 Holiday Season Shipping Recap

Shipping During 2021 Holiday Season Was Calmer and Not the Disaster of Last Year

The 2021 holiday season didn’t turn into the type of shipping chaos experienced in 2020 as the US Postal Service and logistics companies were better prepared to handle this year’s peak season.

Earlier this year, we surveyed 13 shipping and eCommerce leaders on what to expect this holiday season. They all predicted 2021 would be a much calmer peak season as online retailers and the shipping industry learned from the problems encountered in 2020.

Sadly, last year there were millions of packages that arrived late, with many not even arriving until January.

And unlike 2020, when even local news outlets covered USPS mailing trucks waiting to be unloaded at postal centers or carriers like UPS and FedEx admitted to throttling acceptance from large shippers to maintain their logistics operations, there were no major reports of delivery and logistics problems.

Most local and national news reports on deliveries were of small situations or sometimes a funny and kind story. It was a very different season.

More on 2021 Holiday Season

Many online merchants ran early deals, well ahead of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) weekend trying to entice early shopping to avoid shipping bottlenecks later in the season.

While still one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, online sales growth was fairly flat over the BFCM weekend with Cyber Monday actually seeing a slight decline, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index.

Data from Salesforce suggested similar trends Adobe found, confirming the overall online shopping tendencies this year were very different from 2020 or even previous years. Will this shift to early shopping for the holiday gifts continue next year?

Consumers and small businesses that mostly relied on USPS to ship parcels internationally continued to face a lot of headwinds with international shipments and orders.

New EU VAT rules slowed down imports into many European countries due to new procedures. USPS could never fully open up accepting the most popular mail types to Australia and New Zealand due to the lack of available air transport, frustrating many people and small businesses.

For most online and offline retailers supply chain challenges were the biggest headache. Would they receive merchandise in time for the holiday season? Large retailers like Amazon became creative, but small businesses were stuck with traditional methods.

Supply chain challenges will continue to be a topic for 2022 but hopefully ease later in the new year.

With empty shelves in retail stores and out-of-stock messages more common this year than in years past, early full-season sales data seems to suggest people still found gifts to buy. So, that is the good news!

Small boutique merchants and sellers that produce their own unique products may have benefited from the supply chain challenges with Etsy even highlighting this advantage in October.

Also, sustainable gift-giving from digital subscriptions to secondhand goods was on the rise this year. This trend is being led by Gen-Z consumers who are increasingly becoming a more powerful consumer group.

In late January and early February, we will gain more insights on holiday season shopping trends as earnings reports from Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Walmart, Poshmark, and others that will shed more light on this year’s holiday season.

Overall, it appears the 2021 holiday season went very well. Maybe even a little better than some expected with no real shipping challenges and shoppers finding gifts for their loved ones.

The final act of the 2021 holiday season will be returns season, which will go into at least mid-January of 2022.

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