How Covid-19 and Carrier Capacity May Be Impacting Your Holiday Shipping

Allison Champion
5 min read
September 30, 2020
Modified: March 20, 2023

The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about your holiday shipping strategy. Knowing the holiday schedule for major carriers will help you cash in on the more than $3.9 trillion that Americans are projected to spend on holiday shopping this year. This ecommerce guide to holiday shipping deadlines has everything you need to ensure your products arrive in time for the holidays.

How to Prepare for Holiday Shoppers

The coronavirus put many facets of American life into doubt, including how, when, and where consumers are allowed to shop. That being said, with brick-and-mortar retail stores shuttered around the country, online shopping is now a necessity for every consumer this holiday season. 

In fact, the National Retail Federation projects online sales to grow up by 15%, or an incredible $893.9 billion over last year. With so many brick-mortar merchants closing their doors due to COVID-19, everything now depends on your holiday shipping and fulfilment strategy. 

Source: NRF based on U.S. Census Bureau data. Reflects June 25, 2019 U.S. Census revisions.

Fortunately, the supply chain in many areas of the country is back up and running and ready to accommodate the Hundreds of Millions of Holiday Packages Expected Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day

Unfortunately, much of the information regarding holiday shipping deadlines, transit times, and carrier capacity was TBD until recently. Below you’ll find the answers to the most pertinent holiday shipping questions as well as holiday shipping deadlines, carrier cutoffs and transit times. 

How Will Holiday Shipping Look Different This Year

One of the defining challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent quarantine has been product availability. In fact, a DigitalCommerce360 survey found that 47% of online shoppers experienced both out-of-stocks and shipping delays during the first months of the pandemic. 

Source: Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights April Coronavirus survey of 1,064 online shoppers

Much of the supply chain has now stabilized, but merchants should still evaluate their ability to carry essential products (that were popular during the coronavirus) AND categories like apparel and luxury goods against the carrying cost of excess inventory. 

How Will Holiday Shipping Times Be Affected By The Pandemic

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the way most shoppers hoped retailers would improve was faster deliveries. Now, in the later stages of the pandemic, that sentiment is stronger than ever. 

Source: Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights 2020 Post-Holiday survey of 4,697 online shoppers.

Additionally, given the increased adoption of omnichannel during COVID-19 pandemica, experts now project consumers to expect store-based services like curbside pickup and same day delivery to continue.

Holidays for Ecommerce Brands

When you hear the word “holiday” you likely think of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years, that is, unless you’re an ecommerce business. If you’re a Retailer, when you hear the word “holiday” you think Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

But, even with those additions, there are still a number of retail and shipping holidays supported by major retail brands that ecommerce businesses and merchants should know about and prepare for. Here is the full list of 2020 shopping holidays. 

  • Amazon Prime Day: October 13-14, 2020
  • Thanksgiving: November 26, 2020
  • Black Friday: November 27, 2020
  • Small Business Saturday: November 28, 2020
  • Cyber Monday: November 30, 2020
  • Hanukkah: December 10-18, 2020
  • Free Shipping Day: December 14, 2020
  • Super Saturday: December 19, 2020
  • Christmas: December 25, 2020
  • Peak Returns Day: January 2, 2021

Holiday Shipping Deadlines: Last Days to Ship for Holiday Carriers

Holiday shipping deadlines are the dates in which an order must be placed with a retailer for the chosen carrier to deliver the package before a specific holiday. Though Christmas is THE holiday most people shop for, ecommerce stores need to be ready for all the shopping holidays, especially if they sell on Amazon, Walmart, or Target. 

Amazon Holiday Shipping Deadlines

According to Amazon, the key to avoiding a stock out this holiday season is to ensure your shipments arrive at Amazon well in advance of key shopping dates. Therefore, your inventory should arrive at an Amazon fulfillment center no later than November 1st to ensure your products are available for customers during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday shopping season.


UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines

According to the UPS holiday schedule, the company will not offer delivery or pickup services on Thanksgiving. Most UPS store locations will also be closed and all UPS ground, freight, and air services will be suspended for the day. 


The only exception to this rule is UPS Express Critical, which is used to send emergency shipments and does not generally apply to ecommerce shipments. If you intend to ship with UPS around Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Years, these are the deadlines you need to hit.

Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, 2020

  • UPS Ground Shipping: November 20
  • UPS Next Day Air: November 25
  • UPS 2nd Day Air: November 23
  • UPS 3 Day Select: November 20

Christmas Day, 2020

  • UPS Ground Shipping: December 16
  • UPS Next Day Air: December 18
  • UPS 2nd Day Air: December 18
  • UPS 3 Day Select: December 19

New Year’s, 2020

  • UPS Ground Shipping – December 18
  • UPS Next Day Air – December 18
  • UPS 2nd Day Air – December 18
  • UPS 3 Day Select – December 18 

United States Postal Service (USPS) Holiday Shipping Deadlines

As it is every year, The United States Postal Service is closed for all of the major federal holidays. Therefore it’s incredibly important that ecommerce businesses understand the appropriate cut-off dates for shipping.


Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, 2020

  • USPS Priority Mail Express – Next day, ship by Saturday, November 21st
  • Priority Mail – 1-3 days, ship by Friday, November 20th
  • First-class Mail – 1-3 days, ship by Friday, November 20th
  • USPS media mail – 2 to 8 days, ship by Friday, November 13th
  • USPS retail ground – 2 to 8 days, ship by Friday, November 13th

Christmas Day, 2020

  • USPS Priority Mail Express – Next day, ship by Tuesday, December 22nd
  • Priority Mail – 1-3 days, ship by Monday, December 21st
  • First-class Mail – 1-3 days, ship by Monday, December 21st
  • USPS media mail – 2 to 8 days, ship by Friday, December 16th
  • USPS retail ground – 2 to 8 days, ship by Friday, December 16th

FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines

Of the various carriers operating in the United States, FedEx is one of the best at alerting their customers to shipping deadlines. They even have an interactive shipping calendar so you can make sure your deliveries arrive in time for the holidays. 


If you’re an ecommerce business Preparing for Black Friday in Advance, then you’ve only just started the race through the holiday shopping season. Whether this is your first holiday shopping season, or you’ve been doing this for years, COVID-19 can ruin your plans equally. Contact Flowspace today to ensure your products arrive in time for the holidays. 

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Written By:

flowspace author Allison Champion

Allison Champion

Allison Champion leads marketing communication at Flowspace, where she works to develop content that addresses the unique challenges facing modern brands in omnichannel eCommerce. She has more than a decade of experience in content development and marketing.

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