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Important Shipping Dates for Seamless Holiday Sales

Holiday sales are expected to grow 3%–4% in 2023, reaching a record $960–$966 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. This means eCommerce businesses stand to boost their holiday sales and profits and potentially smash the previous season.

To capitalize on this lucrative opportunity, it’s essential to tighten the screws of your logistical operations and abide by key shipping dates. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the critical days you need to be aware of to maximize your holiday sales and keep your FBA inventory stocked during the festive season.

Plan ahead for holiday success

Planning is crucial to maximize your holiday sales. You need to ensure your FBA inventory arrives at fulfillment centers on time for Q4 deal events. Doing so not only meets consumer demand but also takes advantage of the increased traffic and sales opportunities during the season.

Below are some important sales dates and shipping deadlines to mark on your calendar so you’ll stay ahead of the holiday rush.

Prime Fall Deal event: Sept. 12

The holiday shopping season kicks off with the Prime Fall Deal event on September 12. This sale sets the stage for the months of increased consumer activity leading up to year-end festivities.

In 2022, the Prime Fall Deal Event generated over $11.9 billion in sales, up from $11 billion in 2021. Prime members purchased over 300 million items during the event, with the top-selling categories being electronics, apparel, and home goods.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Nov. 24 & 27

Two of the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, fall on November 24 and 27 this holiday season. On these days, shoppers flock to online and brick-and-mortar stores for the best deals and discounts.

Cyber Monday sales in the U.S. brought in a record $11.3 billion in 2022, making it the biggest online shopping day of the year and the highest-recorded Cyber Monday profit to date.

That $11.3 billion comprised just under a third of all Cyber Week spending in 2022 and 5.34% of the year’s overall holiday shopping.

Those statistics highlight the massive sales potential of holiday events for eCommerce businesses. Develop a strategy and ensure your FBA inventory is stocked well in advance to make the most of these opportunities.

USPS holiday shipping and mailing deadlines

While FBA is a popular choice for many sellers, it’s also important to consider alternative shipping options, especially if you fulfill orders directly to customers.

The United States Postal Service announced it won’t have a peak, or demand, surcharge this holiday season, providing more explicit predictability in pricing for customers. As always, USPS offers simple, up-front pricing year-round with no additional fees for residential area and Saturday deliveries, no fuel surcharges, and no volume minimums. The service continues to be the most affordable way to mail and ship this holiday season.

Here are some key USPS holiday shipping and mailing deadlines to keep in mind:

  • Within the lower 48 (excludes Alaska and Hawaii):
    • USPS Ground Advantage: Dec. 16
    • First-Class Mail (including greeting cards): Dec. 16
    • Priority Mail: Dec. 18
    • Priority Mail Express: Dec. 20
  • Alaska:
    • USPS Ground Advantage: Dec. 16
    • First-Class Mail: Dec. 16
    • Priority Mail: Dec. 18
    • Priority Mail Express: Dec. 20
  • Hawaii:
    • USPS Ground Advantage: Dec. 16
    • First-Class Mail: Dec. 16
    • Priority Mail: Dec. 16
    • Priority Mail Express: Dec. 20
  • International mail: Shipping deadlines for international mail vary depending on the destination. Check out International Mail & Shipping Services for details. The Postal Service is a secure shipping option that meets international mail shipping needs to over 180 countries.

You can also refer to the table below for deadlines:

Shipping Service Deadline for Delivery by December 25
USPS Ground Advantage December 16
First-Class Mail (including greeting cards) December 16
Priority Mail December 18
Priority Mail Express December 20
USPS Ground Advantage (APO/FPO/DPO) November 6
First-Class Mail (APO/FPO/DPO) December 9
Priority Mail (APO/FPO/DPO) December 9
Priority Mail Express Military Service (APO/FPO/DPO) December 15
International Mail Varies by destination; check USPS website for details

UPS holiday shipping and mailing deadlines

UPS plays a major role in timely holiday deliveries. They emphasize a December 23 delivery deadline to ensure customers receive their holiday orders on time.

To achieve this, UPS has set specific cutoff dates for different shipping services. Here are the key dates you should be aware of:

  • Ground Shipping: Dec. 18
  • UPS Next Day Air with Saturday Delivery: Dec. 21
  • Shipments to Canada or Mexico: Dec. 19

UPS suspends pickup and delivery services on certain holidays, which include:

  • Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22)
  • Christmas Eve (Dec. 24)
  • Christmas Day (Dec.r 25)
  • New Year’s Day (January 1)

These holiday schedules may affect delivery times and service availability, so plan your shipments accordingly to avoid disruptions.

Check out UPS’s full holiday schedule here.

FedEx holiday shipping and mailing deadlines

This year, Christmas falls on a Monday, which means you won’t be able to rely on overnight delivery from FedEx on Christmas Eve. Instead, you’ll need to consider FedEx SameDay, which should be sent on Friday, December 22, to guarantee your packages’ arrival before Christmas.

Below are the key FedEx shipping deadlines to meet to guarantee your packages arrive on or before December 25 in the U.S.:

  • Ground: Dec. 15.
  • Express Saver: Dec. 19
  • 2Day and 2Day AM: Dec. 20
  • First Overnight and Priority Overnight: Dec. 21
  • SameDay: Dec. 22

Note: For 2Day, First Overnight, and Priority Overnight, you can send them one day later with an optional Saturday Delivery surcharge of $16 per package.

Here’s the full breakdown of FedEx’s shipping deadlines for holiday packages.

Be mindful of shipping delays

During the holiday season, shipping carriers and fulfillment centers experience increased demand and higher volumes of packages. That can lead to longer transit times, so shipping your inventory to fulfillment centers may take longer. To mitigate any potential delays, anticipate your shipments early on.

One essential step is to check your recommended replenishment quantity. Amazon provides recommendations based on your sales history and the expected demand during the holiday season. Use that information to plan your shipments effectively and guarantee your most popular products remain in stock throughout the holidays.

Learn more about the essential dates of the holiday rush and how to prepare your FBA inventory.

Understanding Amazon’s Holiday Peak Fulfillment Fee

When coordinating your shipping schedule, you need to be aware of Amazon’s Holiday Peak Fulfillment Fee. This fee is effective from October 15, 2023 through January 14, 2024, encompassing the busy holiday season.

While fees can be a concern for sellers, it’s worth noting that Amazon’s fulfillment fees remain competitive and offer a cost-effective way to reach buyers during the holidays. Here are some key details about the Holiday Peak Fulfillment Fee in particular:

  • Operating cost coverage: This fee covers the increased operating costs Amazon incurs during the holiday season due to heightened demand and additional resources required for fulfillment.
  • Rate unchanged: FBA fee rates for the U.S. and Canada remain unchanged from 2022, providing sellers with a clear understanding of their holiday fulfillment costs.
  • Competitive advantage: Amazon’s other fulfillment fees remain approximately 30% cheaper than standard shipping methods that other logistics providers offer. Those cost savings can be a significant advantage for sellers looking to maximize profits during the holiday season.
  • Exceptions: The fee excludes U.S. FBA items priced under $10. That exemption allows smaller, lower-priced items to remain cost-effective for both sellers and customers.

For detailed fee rates and further information, refer to Amazon’s help pages, which provide comprehensive information on the fee structures for different types of FBA services.

Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime enrollment reopened

In addition to these critical shipping dates, we have exciting news for sellers: Amazon reopened new seller enrollment for Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) in the U.S. on October 1, 2023.

SFP was initially launched in 2015 to allow sellers to handle the fulfillment of their products independently while also providing Prime customers with the same fast, free delivery they expect.

To enroll in SFP, you must first pre-qualify and then start the 30-day SFP trial. You have to meet all SFP program requirements during the trial period to fully enroll. According to Amazon, the pre-qualifications you must meet to start the SFP trial are:

  • Have a domestic U.S. address as your default shipping address
  • Maintain an Amazon Professional selling account
  • Meet the following criteria over the past 90 days:
    • Self-fulfilled at least 100 packages
    • Cancellation rate less than 2.5%
    • Valid tracking rate greater than 95%
    • Late shipment rate less than 4%

The SFP trial is designed to ensure your offerings can consistently meet Prime speed and reliability standards.

MyFBAPrep’s SFP network can help you fulfill orders quickly and reliably nationwide, even during the busy holiday season.

Tips to prepare for the holiday shipping rush

To navigate these trends and challenges successfully, sellers need to develop an air-tight strategy for holiday shipping. Here are some helpful tips to facilitate a smooth and profitable sales season:

  • Start early: Map your shipping strategy well in advance and ensure you have ample inventory to meet the expected demand. Starting early allows you to anticipate and address potential issues proactively.
  • Choose the right shipping carriers: Compare shipping rates and delivery times to select the best carrier for your business and customers. Each carrier has its strengths, so look for one that aligns with your shipping needs.
  • Offer flexible shipping options: Offer standard, expedited, and even free shipping to cater to shoppers’ varying preferences and budgets. This flexibility will help you attract a broader customer base.
  • Be transparent: Set realistic expectations regarding shipping times and delivery windows. Transparency builds trust with your buyers, and they’ll appreciate knowing when to expect their packages.
  • Prepare for customer inquiries: Shipping inquiries are inevitable during the holiday rush, so have a dedicated team ready to answer customer questions and resolve any shipping-related issues promptly. Excellent customer service can set you apart from the competition.

Wrapping up — Thorough preparations encourage a prosperous holiday season

The holiday season presents many opportunities for eCommerce businesses to boost sales and connect with customers. To boost your success, plan meticulously and adhere to shipping deadlines.

By marking your calendar with key dates and being aware of fulfillment fees and shipping deadlines, you’ll position your business for a seamless and profitable holiday season. Start strategizing your holiday shipments now to delight your customers and make the most of this special time of year.