USPS Expecting 800 Million Holiday Packages, Down from Past Years

The U.S. Postal Service is projecting holiday package volume of 800 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, a massive number but a drop from the figure of 900 million in 2018 and 850 million in 2017.

As has been well documented, USPS volume has fallen off from both Amazon and FedEx this year as they divert more and more packages into their own fulfillment networks to drive density and efficiency. However, some portion of the decline can be attributed to a shorter holiday calendar, with six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than in 2018.

More pain is coming for the USPS in 2020, when FedEx is expected to divert 2 million packages from USPS into its ground network as it begins seven-day delivery.

While the USPS claims to handle more shipped-to-home holiday packages than anyone else, the others may be catching up. UPS doesn’t provide an overall seasonal projection, but does say its daily average during this year’s peak season will be 32 million packages, an increase of 50% over normal periods.

“We expect this year’s peak holiday period delivery volume to be about 5% higher than in 2018,” said UPS spokesperson Dawn Wotapka. “We also expect the holiday shipping season to start the week of Thanksgiving, rising sharply during Cyber Week and remaining remain heavy through Christmas.”

The USPS said Sunday delivery will be expanded beginning Nov. 24 to urban locations with high package volumes, expecting over 8 million package deliveries on Sundays in December. It will even offer Christmas Day delivery in select locations for a fee.

The busiest period for the USPS will be the two weeks before Christmas, with heavy volume expected to start Dec. 9 and reaching its peak during the week of Dec. 16.

Dec. 16 will be the busiest day online for the USPS, with an estimated 8.5 million shoppers visiting its site for shipping packages. Nearly 105 million shoppers will visit the site between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, USPS said, and nearly 400,000 will use online services to order free Priority Mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postage and request free next-day pickup.

The USPS provided the following cutoff dates for delivery by Dec. 25:

Continental U.S.

  • 9      — APO/FPO/DPO (ZIP Code 093 only) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail
  • 11    — APO/FPO/DPO (all other ZIP Codes) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail
  • 14    — USPS Retail Ground
  • 18    — APO/FPO/DPO (except ZIP Code 093) USPS Priority Mail Express
  • 20    — First-Class Mail (including greeting cards)
  • 20    — First-Class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)
  • 21    — Priority Mail
  • 23    — Priority Mail Express (not a guarantee)

Alaska

  • 18    — Alaska to mainland First-Class Mail
  • 19    — Alaska to mainland Priority Mail
  • 21    — Alaska to mainland Priority Mail Express

Hawaii

  • 19   — Hawaii to mainland Priority Mail and First-Class Mail
  • 21   — Hawaii to mainland Priority Mail Express