If I order online will it get here on time?
It’s a question a lot of Canadians who routinely buy online are asking themselves, as Canada Post won’t guarantee delivery with the busiest shopping and shipping period of the year getting underway.
On Tuesday, Canada Post announced the backlog of hundreds of trailer loads of mail across the country will delay delivery of tonnes of envelopes and packages right into the New Year.
“With all efforts exhausted to restore operations while the labour dispute continues, Canada Post is taking the extraordinary measure of advising customers and Canadians they should expect potentially long and unpredictable delays this holiday season,” said a message from Canada Post’s media relations office late Tuesday afternoon.
It’s the fifth week of rotating strikes by Canadian Union of Postal Workers staff with no contract resolution in sight.
“People are concerned about the outcome of an online purchase and there is a period of uncertainty right now whether to bring in back-to-work legislation. It is a curable situation between now and Christmas but the key is they (Canada Post and CUPW) need to move within the next couple of days because it’s going to take a few days to move the glut in the system. The trouble isn’t so much the current flow, it’s the impending doubling of that flow.”
It looks like a lot of Canadians won’t be cyber shopping as much this year. Retailers, many who do both online and in-store business, are gearing up for more walk-in buying, and online ordering with self-pickup and alternate to mail delivery options.
Bloomberg reports that, according to Statistics Canada estimates, electronics and appliances sales rose almost 13 per cent last November from the previous year. But fears of shipping delays this year may “weaken confidence in online purchases and hurt merchants that rely on e-commerce.”
Canada Post delivered a record 62 million parcels over the 2017 holiday season, including a single-day record 1.8 million shipments on Dec. 4, according to its annual report, Bloomberg reports.
“We anticipate more demand for our reserve and pickup service during the Canada Post service disruption and are encouraging customers to take advantage of this option to avoid delays,” said Karen Speirs, senior manager of corporate communications with Best Buy Canada.
“Customers can reserve a product online and pickup and pay for it the same day at their local Best Buy Store.”
She said although items they ship via Canada Post may be delayed “large items that normally ship via Purolator or UPS will continue to be delivered as usual.”
Smaller retailers who don’t do online trade have the most to gain from a postal strike, as they’ll be getting back some of the business they lost to Internet sellers.
“Most of our stock comes in via couriers, so the postal strike won’t pose a problem for us,” said Greg Davis, owner of Soundscapes, a popular vinyl, CD, video and music book shop on College St., in Toronto’s Little Italy.
“Physical stores seem to be last minute options for people who left things late but if they feel online orders won’t get to them on time it can benefit a business like ours at a time of year when we stock more special items and box sets, like the new Beatles and Bob Dylan releases.”
When Canada Post grinds to a halt, courier companies, big and small, pick up the slack. Zap Courier Service, based in Concord, has already seen a rise in delivery demand, from bulky items to envelopes.
“We operate 24 hours and have a clientele we deal with on a regular basis but with the postal strike we’ve got a lot more business due to the holiday rush and from people ordering online,” said Joanne Iannello, operations manager with Zap Courier, which delivers throughout Toronto and the GTA using motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrian couriers.
She said since the Canada Post disruptions began they have also been delivering letters and documents for clients, as well as their own mail, and picking up cheques from customers who normally would have mailed in their payments.
Correction — Nov. 20, 2018: This story has been updated from an earlier version to fix an editing mistake that incorrectly attributed a statement to Karl Littler, vice-president of public affairs for the Retail Council of Canada.
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Henry Stancu is a Toronto-based business reporter. Reach him on email: email@example.com