StellaService Study: Did Leading Retailers Deliver By Christmas as Advertised?

We anxiously awaited a few last-minute holiday orders this year – 75 orders from 25 retailers to be exact.

StellaService analyzed retailers’ stated standard shipping cut-off dates to receive orders by Christmas. StellaService Analysts then ordered the same product from the 25 of the largest online retailers to be delivered to three separate regions – East, West and Midwest. The effort was part of the broader 2013 StellaService Holiday Insights study, sponsored by global management and consulting firm Kurt Salmon.

Eight retailers – or 32% – failed to deliver at least one order by Christmas. Of all 75 orders, 12% did not arrive by the estimated date. And, all but one failed delivery was shipped using UPS.

In a statement today, a UPS spokesperson issued an apology, saying that “The volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network.” While UPS said only a small number of orders were affected, StellaService data shows something different. However, it’s important to note that UPS is the preferred carrier for most companies in the top 25.

So, who saved Christmas? It’s no surprise that customer service obsessed gave customers the latest cutoff time – December 23 – and delivered by Christmas in all three regions. StellaService Analysts found that actually upgraded the shipping option to make sure the orders arrived on time.

Other highlights from the Christmas cutoff study include:

  •, and provided the latest cut-off date for standard shipping, December 23. However, was the only retailer to deliver to all three regions by Christmas.
  • did not specify a cut-off date, so shoppers were forced to place orders much earlier than other sites with standard delivery estimates, December 13.
  • Two retailers, Apple and Pottery Barn, changed their cut-off dates/times for standard shipping to allow shoppers more time to order products. Apple extended by a full day and Pottery Barn extended from earlier in the day to midnight. provided conflicting information on their site; actually changing the date from the December 20 to the December 18, then back to the 20th again.

“This year, more holiday shopping was conducted online than ever before, truly testing the limits of the delivery infrastructure,” said Kevon Hills, StellaService director of research. “We’ll be watching closely next year to see how both retailers and carriers work to improve the process and ultimately get a higher percentage of packages shipped on time to shoppers.”

Below are the results for each retailer:

Site Product Ordered Delivered by Christmas Tablet Yes Sneakers Yes Tablet No Tablet Yes Tablet Yes Boots Yes Tablet Yes Tablet Yes Tablet No Tablet Yes Tablet Yes Boots No Tablet Yes Tablet Yes Tablet Yes Tablet Yes Sweater No Bra And Panty Set Yes Dinnerware No Tablet Yes Boots Yes Headphones No Boots No Tablet Yes Bag No

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