Will Gift Buyers Change Their Minds About Shopping Online?

AP amazon center tk 131216 Online Shopping Surge Causes Christmas Gift Delay

A busy Amazon distribution center, just before Christmas. AP Photo.

This year may have been the tipping point for online sales, and that’s a big reason why UPS and FedEx were overwhelmed by delivery problems just before Christmas.

Both shipping firms faced customers’ complaints about delayed gifts. UPS spokeswoman Natalie Black admits “demand was much greater than our forecast,” adding “we are sorry.” Shippers said bad weather also contributed to the delays.

This year has seen a surge in online shopping.  According to IBM Digital Analytics, online Thanksgiving weekend sales jumped about 15 percent compared to 2012, and the Christmas week increase may have been greater.

Amazon, Walmart and Kohl’s were among the retailers that missed some target delivery dates. While online sales soared, foot traffic was down at many brick and mortar stores. Amazon says its customers who did not get their goods delivered on time would get a $20 gift card.

The day after Christmas is usually the busiest of the year for returns and shoppers who buy things with gift cards. “The most common things that are returned are toys,” says Travis Preston, manager of a Super Target in Shawnee, Kan.

“You know it’s just that day and age where people want it and they want it now and they want it quickly to the point where multiple family members bought the same thing for the same child.”

Preston’s advice to shoppers with returns is that if they want to get fast service bring a receipt. “It’s one scan for our team member and we can get you in and out in a couple minutes.”

Headaches at Targets are even more intense than for most retailers. Reuters reports the hackers who stole data on up to 40 million credit and debit card accounts also obtained encrypted PINS – personal identification numbers. Target says it has no reason to believe PIN data was stolen.

The company says it is aware of “limited instances” of scam emails, where fake emails have been sent to customers. Target says it is creating a section of its website to contain copies of Target’s official communications.

Shipping stuff may get even more expensive soon. Postal regulators have approved a temporary price hike of 3 cents for a first-class stamp, to 49 cents a letter. Other rates will also rise. The Postal Service is losing billions of dollars a year.

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