A Purolator driver wears a mask as he makes deliveries in Toronto, March 24, 2020. Purolator expects to deliver 46 million packages through its peak season this year, which runs through most of November and part of December, CEO John Ferguson said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

A Purolator driver wears a mask as he makes deliveries in Toronto, March 24, 2020. Purolator expects to deliver 46 million packages through its peak season this year, which runs through most of November and part of December, CEO John Ferguson said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Record demand for package delivery expected to continue into 2021

Both UPS and Purolator have added thousands of new employees since the start of this year

Courier services are grappling with a record-setting number of packages as the second wave of virus cases forces more people to do their holiday shopping online.

But unlike in every other year, when the surge subsided in the weeks after Christmas, this year’s increase in package volume is showing no signs of slowing down.

“We’re thinking this is going to be a uniquely steady pace even into the new year,” said John Ferguson, the CEO of Purolator, in an interview.

Purolator expects to deliver a record 46 million packages through its peak season this year, which runs through most of November and part of December, Ferguson said.

Package volume this holiday season is 10 per cent higher than the courier anticipated, even with an optimistic forecast, Ferguson said. Total deliveries are up 50 per cent this year compared with last year, while e-commerce deliveries are up between 80 and 100 per cent, with a major spike coming in August rather than around the holidays, Ferguson said.

Purolator’s experience has been shared by Canada’s other couriers, with UPS and DHL Express Canada both anticipating record seasons. DHL’s volume in Canada is up 60 per cent around the holidays this year, after being around 30 per cent higher earlier in the year.

“This is a continuation of a volume pattern that we saw evolving over the course of 2020,” said Andrew Williams, CEO of DHL Express Canada.

Williams added that he expected the additional volume from the peak season to last into January and possibly February, with many people shipping returns of goods purchased around the holidays.

Intelcom, a shipping company with offices across Canada, said it has also seen a slow buildup in volume towards the end of 2020, rather than a single spike.

“With the current pandemic, there has been a constant increase for several months,” an Intelcom spokesperson said. “We are currently meeting our planned initial targets and the number of daily packages we deliver is growing.”

READ MORE: Canada Post urges holiday shoppers to buy gifts early amid surge in online shopping

Williams said the slow buildup in volume has helped DHL to be more prepared for peak season, allowing it to take advantage of new investments in staffing and infrastructure that had already been in place earlier in the year. DHL Express Canada has hired about 600 additional employees since the start of the pandemic, Williams said.

Both UPS and Purolator have added thousands of new employees since the start of this year in an effort to manage the substantial increase in parcel shipping volume.

Purolator has also experimented with new ways of expediting the shipping process, including self-serve parcel lockers, low-speed electric vehicles in downtown areas and partnerships with retailers like Michaels.

Still, Ronnie Midlash, the owner of Save N Ship, a store in Montreal that works with major delivery services, said some couriers are experiencing backlogs because of the surge in packages.

“There are no guarantees,” Midlash said. “If they’re telling you two days, it could be four days.”

Ferguson said Purolator is not having issues with delivery times, but that the company encourages people to ship their packages early and is implementing a cutoff date of Dec. 22 for packages that are guaranteed to arrive before Christmas.

The increase in packages has been a boon for shipping services, but greater COVID-related costs, such as personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer for its couriers, have prevented companies from profiting more from the higher demand.

Ferguson said he doesn’t see those costs coming down any time soon, with virus cases continuing to climb in Canada.

Jon Victor, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
NTC president calls for ‘massive change’ after Indigenous woman shot by police in Hitacu

“We need to get to the root of what is actually happening with the RCMP and our communities”

Hotel Zed Tofino has won a Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Award. (Westerly file photo)
Hotel Zed Tofino wins commercial building award

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board holds virtual gala.

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet reviews 11 applications for RVs as seasonal housing

“Housing is so essential to everyone, and an issue that cases a lot of stress to business owners.”

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

Most Read