Canada Post, retailers gear up for the holiday shopping season

Many companies in Canada are predicting consumers will shift gears this holiday season and embrace online shopping with greater vigor compared with previous years.

Citing a survey conducted by Solutions Research Group, the Financial Post indicated Canadians have been shopping online more frequently in 2014 than in previous years. In fact, the survey found roughly two-thirds of shoppers have made a purchase on an e-commerce site this year. Compared to last year, this is more than a 50 percent jump in the number of consumers demonstrating this behavior.

How will businesses be affected?
The shift in preference is important for businesses in Canada as the holiday season is a period when they can earn 30 percent of their total annual revenue, The Globe and Mail explained. Diane Brisebois, president of the trade group Retail Council of Canada, told the newspaper that this season will be particularly challenging for merchants because there are more competitors in an already crowded market.

However, businesses can expect to see positive sales numbers. Retail sales figures are predicted to jump 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter. That correlates to roughly $90 billion in revenue. This is a significant improvement over the 2013 holiday shopping season, which was impacted by harsh winter weather that dampened sales numbers.

Who are the shoppers?
About half of the shoppers in the Solutions Research Group study who shopped online in the past month fell in the 30 to 49 range for age. There was also a large contingent from Ontario.

Canada Post changes its approach
According to Canada Post, the number of parcel packages has already started to make an impact on operations. Canada Post expects this holiday season will break records, due in large part to e-commerce activity. The organization delivers the majority – two-thirds – of packages ordered online.

The holiday season is a time when customers place increased importance on the timeliness of deliveries. Accordingly, Canada Post has invested greater resources into its workforce and facilities to ensure parcels are handled expeditiously. One big change is the fact that the postal service will deliver items on the weekends. With an official start date of Nov. 2, 2014, businesses and customers will benefit from expanded service, including 24/7 operating hours in some of the busiest facilities.

To accomplish its goal, Canada Post will add more than 3,000 seasonal workers to its existing workforce, which sits at about 49,000 employees. It also plans to make changes to its supply chain, especially its distribution channels. Specifically, Canada Post increased the number of suppliers it works with for ground transportation purposes, as well as those involved in air transit.

With more e-commerce activity among Canadian consumers, it’s critical that online merchants take advantage of mailing software to improve back office functions. In addition to cutting postage costs, companies can do a better job of eliminating undeliverable mail. E-retailers can easily customize labels and presort items to create a more streamlined operation.