During the holidays, merchants expect to do nearly 20-30% of their annual revenue, so it’s no wonder that things are getting busy! During the final weeks of the year, transit times for shipments increase as trucks, trains and steamships are packed to capacity. Each year, the holiday supply chain stretches to meet increased demand. And everyone from shippers to carriers to retailers and manufacturers hopes to make their customers happy—and keep revenue flowing. 

To help you stay in the spirit during the holiday season, we’ve put together a list of 11 surprising facts that you might not have realized about holiday logistics. Enjoy—with our wishes for a smooth and successful holiday season! 

Fact #1: 35 million Christmas trees are harvested each year in the United States. 

christmas trees in field

That’s about one Christmas tree for every nine people in the U.S!  

95% of these trees are grown on Christmas tree farms. Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington produce the highest number of trees, which are then shipped to other states around the country—including Hawaii! 

Fact #2: “Mr. Christmas” imports anywhere from 4,300-4,700 of these trees to Oahu every year. 

christmas tree on hawaii beach

Mele Kalikimaka from Oahu, where Richard Tajiri brings up to 4,700 trees to the island every year, via container ship. “Mr. Christmas,” as he is known, is the largest importer of Christmas trees in the state. 

Oahu isn’t the only island that enjoys celebrating the holiday. In 2012, there were 190,000 trees sold in the entire state of Hawaii, 96% of which were imported.

This had an interesting side effect on the Big Island this year when a Hilo resident found an alligator lizard in his Christmas tree! Officials guessed that the lizard hitched a ride on the tree before it was brought over in a container from Washington State. 

And what’s a Christmas tree without wrapped presents? Given the following numbers, it’s clear Americans enjoy their wrapping paper as much as their trees. 

Fact #3: Americans Spend $9.36 BILLION on gift wrap alone! 

wrapping paper rolls

That’s more than the combined GDP of Africa’s 9 poorest countries.

It also equates to around four million pounds of paper, shipped all over the country. For a visual representation of how much wrapping paper that really is, consider that four million pounds of paper could cover 5,787 NFL football fields!

This wrapping paper will largely be used on the gifts of a specific origin this year. 

Fact #4: 60% of consumers will do more than half of their holiday shopping online. 

woman shopping online

This year, online sales are predicted to grow by 13% in the U.S. and 15% globally, with significant implications for trucking in the U.S., since . . .  

Fact #5: The United States depends on trucks to deliver nearly 70% of all freight, including both manufactured and retail goods.

freight trucks traveling road

And . . .  

Fact #6: Package numbers are growing faster than the order numbers. 

stacked boxes

In order to get items in customers’ hands faster, many online retailers are sending orders in multiple packages. Formerly, many retailers would hold an order until all items were ready, so they could send all of the order in a single package. 

As a result, even as the number of orders continues to increase, the number of shipments will increase significantly more, since each order is generating multiple packages, due to these shipping practices.

This, in turn, means a busy season for carriers. 

Fact #7: UPS, FedEx, the USPS and other carriers will move 800 million+ packages during the holiday season.

delivering package

USPS anticipates a 4.4% increase in the number of packages they’ll see, with an average Sunday volume of 8 million pieces of mail. (Just think about that!) 

And don’t forget about the post-Christmas rush for returns! 

Fact #8: The USPS is predicting a 19.6% increase in returns this year.

getting bad gift of socks

During the 2017 holiday season, people returned 28% of their gifts, which represented a value of $90 billion.

Interestingly, men are more likely to return a gift, with 58% of returns initiated by men and only 42% from women.

During this high-volume season of purchases and returns, big retailers will be managing their holiday supply chain and inventory down to the Nth degree. For example . . .  

Fact #9: Best Buy checks its inventory at stores every 30 minutes to meet customer demand. 

man checking inventory

The retailer expects to earn 60% of its annual revenue during the final quarter of the year. Their transportation and supply chain management systems are carefully coordinated to ensure coordination between 750 stores, eight distribution centers, 14 delivery centers, two consolidation centers and two return centers. 

Best Buy, like many other links of the holiday supply chain, will hire seasonal workers to meet demand. In fact . . .  

Fact #10: UPS hired 100,000 seasonal staffers last holiday season.  

new hires sitting in chairs

For their part, FedEx hired around 55,000-holiday team members.

The online retail giant Amazon will also be making its own hires. 

Fact #11: Amazon hired 100,000-holiday temp workers for the 2018 holiday season. 

warehouse worker

These workers shipped one billion items to Amazon’s Prime Members internationally, during the holiday season alone.

Amazon hired 20,000 more seasonal workers in 2017 than in 2018. Because of its investment in robotics technology within its warehouses—including two-wheeled drones—Amazon didn’t see the need for as many workers.

As AI continues to impact the shipping industry in several dimensions, we’ll be keeping an eye on the effects in the next year—and the next decade. 

 

Happy Holidays from the Approved Team!  

We hope you enjoyed learning some new facts and figures about holiday logistics—and that you’re enjoying the rush (and the revenue!) of this holiday season. It’s our favorite time of year, and we’re sending warm wishes from the Approved team to yours for a smooth holiday supply chain experience.