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FedEx and UPS Hiring More Workers to Avoid Holiday Delays

As reported by ABC News, FedEx and United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) are hiring more workers to avoid the delays that plagued last year’s holiday season.

FedEx plans to hire 50,000 seasonal workers, up from 40,000 last year, while UPS will add up to 95,000 people, up from 85,000. Last year, both companies scrambled to hire more seasonal employees than they had planned.

FedEx also expects to invest $1.2 billion in its ground-shipping network in its current fiscal year, with most of that going to increase capacity and automation. The company said that the improvements have sped up ground delivery by a day or more in more than two-thirds of the U.S. UPS has also invested to boost shipping capacity during the holidays.

Last December, the delivery giants were caught off-guard by bad weather and a surge in last-minute online shopping, leading to an estimated 2 million packages arriving late for the holidays.

About 1.3 million express packages handled by UPS and 618,000 carried by FedEx failed to get delivered on time last Christmas Eve, with UPS and FedEx at fault roughly 30 percent of the time, according to ShipMatrix Inc. In most cases, retailers promised guaranteed express delivery, but didn’t pay the delivery companies for that speedier service.

The retail federation’s online division, Shop.org, predicts that online sales in November and December will rise 8 to 11 percent over last year.

NRF Offers Optimistic Forecast for Holiday Sales and Hires

The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects sales (excluding auto, gas, and restaurant sales) to increase 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion in November and December, higher than 2013’s 3.1 percent increase during that same time frame. This would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales would increase more than 4 percent.

Holiday sales on average have grown 2.9 percent over the past 10 years, including 2014’s estimates, and are expected to represent approximately 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion.

NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. It now includes direct-to-consumer, kiosk, and online sales.

Additionally, NRF expects between 725,000 and 800,000 new seasonal employers for the holiday shopping season, potentially more than retailers hired in 2013.

NRF’s shop.org division expects online sales to grow 8 to 11 percent more than last holiday season.

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Retailers Leverage Tablets to Elevate Brand

With more than 60 million Americans forecast to own a tablet computer by the end of this year, retailers say tablets are driving an increasingly large share of their web revenue. According to the State of Retailing Online 2012 survey, which surveyed 59 companies and was conducted by Shop.org/Forrester Research Inc. (NASDAQ: FORR), 49 percent of retailers say their average order value via a tablet is now higher than traditional web sales, while nearly 28 percent of retailers say they are seeing about the same average order value from tablets.

According to the survey, tablet and smartphone sales, as a percent of retailers’ total web sales in 2011, were 3.2 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. Eight in 10 retailers say search and email are the top two drivers of a company’s web traffic from either a smartphone or tablet. Additionally, retailers surveyed report that, on average, 20 percent of emails opened in a given campaign are opened on a mobile device. Seventy-five percent say they now offer customers QR codes and other barcode scanning options. While mid-size retailers rely more heavily on mobile email optimization, QR codes rank as the leading mobile marketing tool for companies with less than $10 million and more than $100 million in annual online sales.

Retailers are still adjusting to the sea of change that mobile is having on consumer shopping behavior and retailers’ marketing initiatives. Retailers say that, on average, 3.9 percent of their total interactive marketing budgets this year are dedicated to mobile advertising, suggesting a strategy of testing and measuring consumer response.

The State of Retailing Online 2012 will be available to Shop.org members in June and can be purchased at www.shop.org/soro. Forrester clients will be able to access the report as part of their subscription service two weeks from publication.

This post was originally written by Ali Mierzejewski and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.

Report: Retailers Expect Growth in Online Businesses for the Holidays

This holiday season, most retailers expect strong demand and growth for their online businesses. According to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey, conducted by Bigresearch, nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) retailers expect their company’s online sales to grow at least 15 percent or more, compared to last holiday season. Last year, 63.8 percent of retailers had the same expectations.

When asked why they plan to spend more online this holiday season, four in 10 shoppers (43.2 percent) cited 24-hour convenience as their main reason. Other reasons included not having to fight crowds in stores (37. 2 percent), ease of comparing prices (29.6 percent), and free shipping offers (36.3 percent).

Anticipating customers to seek free shipping offers, nine in 10 online retailers (92.5 percent) said they plan to offer the service at some point, up from 84.8 percent last year. Additionally, 56.3 percent of retailers said their specific budgets for free shipping promotions are somewhat or significantly higher than last year.

To prepare for the holiday season, many online retailers have invested in new technologies and site and service features. More than half (51 percent) said they have significantly invested in mobile-optimized websites, and 19.6 percent have invested in tablet device applications. Additionally, 35.3 percent said they have significantly invested in QR codes in offline advertising. Of those who regularly use social media platforms, nearly three-quarters say they have already invested in their Facebook (72.5 percent) and Twitter (41.2 percent) accounts in advance of the holidays.

More Cyber Monday Shoppers Purchased from Home

According to the National Retail Federation, this year’s Cyber Monday traffic shifted from mid-day hours to early morning and evening hours. The NRF reports that CyberMonday.com, a website by Shop.org that features holiday promotions and sales, had 15.8 million visits on Monday, increasing 8 percent from Cyber Monday 2008.

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