Just how did UPS manage to leave many would-be gift recipients empty-handed on Christmas? The company says it's too soon to know for sure. The Wall Street Journal, however, notes that there was a lot more last-minute online shopping this year than last. Online sales the weekend before Christmas soared 37% higher than in 2012—and on Dec. 23, online orders were 63% higher than last year, researchers say. The spike came as retailers pushed online shopping; plenty also offered bigger discounts on the Saturday before Christmas than they had on Black Friday, says an analyst.
The rush prompted retailers to turn ground-shipping orders to air-shipping ones, and UPS suffered a backup in its air service. Though it deals with more retail e-commerce than FedEx, it doesn't have as many planes (FedEx says it had "no major service disruptions," but reports pointed to delays). With planes overloaded, dozens of UPS workers were left with nothing to do, the Journal reports. Many packages ended up still in the company's Louisville hub as of Christmas morning, while others arrived at warehouses too late for delivery trucks to take them to homes. "It's easy to blame UPS, but it's the retailers that are pushing these next-day shipping offers in the final hours of the shopping season," notes an expert. (Read more UPS stories.)