DENVER — The U.S. Postal Service braces for another busy holiday season, and this year consumers can expect to pay more to shop and ship gifts.
Last year, the pandemic pushed people to purchase online in record numbers creating gridlock at postal offices across the nation. Thousands of packages didn’t arrive on time for Christmas.
“It was a crazy year. We had an awful lot of packages that just kept coming,” said James Boxrud, USPS communication specialist. “We saw a 48% increase in parcel volume [across the nation] with the pandemic on top of the regular Christmas volume.”
In January, the post office began to prepare for another busy shopping season. This year, USPS expanded storage space for packages and invested in 112 package sorting machines across the country. One machine was installed at a Denver USPS facility and another in Colorado Springs.
“They are 12 times faster than manual sortation,” Boxrud said.
For the second year, USPS will also increase their shipping rates for select products between Oct. 3 through Dec. 26. Boxrud said the increases in prices are comparable to their competition.
The postal service plans to hire about 850 employees across the Front Range to help meet the holiday demand. Two hiring events are will be held this week; one will be held on Sept. 17 at 951 20th St. in Denver between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and the second will be held on Sept. 18 at 9606 University Blvd. in Littleton.
“Many employees that start with the post office stay with us for 30 years. We have great retirement benefits, great health insurance, great life insurance, great leave,” Boxrud said.
Experts say shoppers shouldn't procrastinate this year due to potential supply and demand issues.
“Everybody is worried about supply,” said Jack Buffington, assistant professor of supply chain at University of Denver.
Most companies submit their product orders up to six months in advance, but lower vaccination rates in countries home to major production companies could create unpredictable shipments, according to Buffington.
To help prevent shortages some companies have ordered extra inventory, but it’s at a much higher price. The cost to ship containers overseas has more than doubled compared to last year.
“You should expect a higher price increase because companies are carrying more inventory, fuel costs are rising and we are still having a significant problem at our ocean ports,” Buffington said.
Alexis Kincaid purchased all her Christmas gifts online last year. She recalls some arriving up to a month late. This year she’s planning to shop and ship earlier than in past years.
Randy Hadden said he always gets an early jump on the holiday shopping season, and this year is no different.
“Christmas shopping has already started,” Hadden said.
If you are flexible with brands and prices, Buffington said you could save some money on last-minute sales. If you have specific items on your checklist, he strongly suggests shopping now.