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Online Retailers Rebound After Last Year's Christmas Delivery Debacle

Staples, Macy's and Kohl's missed deliveries both this year and last.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Last year, online retailers played Scrooge. This year, they were feeling a little bit more like Santa.

A year after winter storms and over-capacity delivery services led to a rash of orders that didn’t arrive in time for Christmas, online retailers got back on track this season, according to a study from the startup StellaService, which measures a variety of customer service attributes of online retailers.

Shoppers hired by StellaService placed 160 orders on the last possible day an order could be placed to make it in time for Christmas and found that eleven of those orders didn’t arrive on time, for a seven percent miss rate. But that’s still better than last year, when 12 percent of orders didn’t arrive on time.

(Some of the 40 online retailers that were tested published their cutoff date on their site; for others, StellaService calculated the cutoff based on how long standard — or free expedited — shipping would take.)

And only 23 percent of the 40 online retailers missed at least one delivery this year, compared to 32 percent of the 25 online retailers tested last year.

Staples, Macy’s and Kohl’s missed deliveries both this year and last. Toys “R” Us missed guaranteed Christmas delivery on two orders placed by StellaService shoppers.

It’s not clear who’s to blame for missed Christmas deliveries. Sometimes an online retailer has a backlog and doesn’t get the product out of its warehouse in time. Other times, it’s the fault of UPS or FedEx. There are also instances where it’s a combination of the two — an online retailer has exceeded the delivery volume guaranteed to it by UPS or FedEx, so even if they get the product out of their warehouse in time, UPS or FedEx doesn’t have the room to ship it on time.

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