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Retailer reviewing the UPS, FedEx, USPS, and Royal Mail ship-by dates

The 2021 Holiday Cutoff Dates for UPS, FedEx, USPS, and Royal Mail

Around the globe, carriers—including UPS, FedEx, USPS, and Royal Mail—have published their 2021 holiday cutoff or ship-by dates so retailers can get their orders into customers’ hands in time for the holidays this year. 

Last year’s surge in online ordering resulted in restricted capacity, as retailers and carriers both struggled to keep up with demand. As of late December 2020, more than a million packages were predicted to arrive after Christmas Day. Warehouse pileups saw 6 million packages per day being left behind by shippers who simply didn’t have the bandwidth to pick them up, which isn’t too far off UPS’s predicted 5 million excess packages they’ll have each day this holiday season.

The supply chain is still facing some challenges as it tries to rebound from pandemic-related issues and adapt to the lasting shift towards higher ecommerce volume — but there are steps you can take to avoid late deliveries this holiday season.

Know the UPS, FedEx, USPS, and Royal Mail holiday cutoff dates.

UPS

Note: The UPS Service Guarantee is suspended for most services thanks to pandemic-related supply chain issues. See the full UPS holiday schedule here.

FedEx

  • FedEx Ground and Home Delivery (including Alaska and Hawaii): Dec. 15
  • FedEx Ground Economy: Dec. 9
  • FedEx Express Saver: Dec. 21
  • FedEx 2-Day & 2-Day AM: Dec. 22
  • FedEx Same Day: Dec. 24

Cutoff dates for freight shipping:

  • FedEx 3-Day Freight: Dec. 21
  • FedEx 2-Day Freight: Dec. 22
  • FedEx 1-Day Freight: Dec. 23
  • FedEx Freight Priority and Freight Direct: Dec. 15
  • FedEx Freight Economy: Dec. 9

Note: Many FedEx service guarantees are also suspended for the holidays. See the full FedEx schedule here

USPS

Cutoff dates for the lower 48 states:

  • USPS Retail Ground: Dec. 15
  • First-Class Mail: Dec. 17
  • Priority Mail: Dec. 18
  • Priority Mail Express: Dec. 23

Cutoff dates for Alaska and Hawaii:

  • Retail Ground (Alaska only): Dec. 2
  • First-Class Mail, Alaska: Dec. 18
  • First-Class Mail, Hawaii: Dec. 17
  • Priority Mail, Alaska: Dec. 18
  • Priority Mail, Hawaii: Dec. 17
  • Priority Mail Express, both Alaska and Hawaii: Dec. 21

See the full USPS schedule here

Royal Mail

  • Royal Mail Bulk Economy: Dec. 17
  • 2nd Class and 2nd Class Signed For: Dec. 18
  • Royal Mail 48: Dec. 18
  • Royal Mail Tracked 48: Dec. 21
  • 1st Class and 1st Class Signed For: Dec. 21
  • Royal Mail 24: Dec. 21
  • Royal Mail Tracked 24: Dec. 22
  • Special Delivery Guaranteed: Dec. 23

See the full Royal Mail schedule here

Take your fulfillment flows into account

Retailers already feel the pressure from this year’s supply chain logjam, and the holiday shopping season will only compound the problem. Good holiday forecasting is important any year, but this year it’s especially crucial. You’ll also need to have a clear picture of your normal order fulfillment time, then give yourself a healthy buffer to get those orders into customers’ hands. The cutoff dates for the major shippers are above, but you may find you need to aim a little ahead of those to meet customer demand.

Make realistic promises 

The sooner you can set appropriate delivery expectations for your customers, the better. While consumers always want accurate shipping times (in fact, 35% say knowing when an item will arrive is a requirement for them to make a purchase), a late package is extra upsetting during the holiday season.

Once you have your projected fulfillment time, you need to put your holiday ordering cutoff in all of your messaging: website, email, shopping cart, etc. Encourage early orders and offer promotions earlier in the season to help reduce last-minute orders and increase your rate of on-time deliveries.

Holiday shipping delays are a nightmare for retailers and carriers alike. By planning ahead, communicating clearly with customers, and encouraging as many early orders as possible, you can avoid costly pileups.

Need some help keeping your customers up-to-date on their order status and tracking? Schedule a demo today.

Michelle McNamara

As a senior content manager at Narvar, Michelle has a finger on the pulse of the ecommerce industry. She's spent close to a decade helping online retailers make sense of their post-purchase processes.

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