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Holiday means big business for shippers

Kenny Kemp
Anna and Sam Wood of Kanawha City take packages to the UPS store at 35th Street to be mailed to their grandparents.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sam and Anna Wood stood at the end of a line that snaked to the door of a Kanawha City UPS store.

During the lunch hour, the brother and sister were sending gifts to their grandparents in Cumberland, Md.

With just a few days left before Christmas, the store was full of people just like the Woods, hoping to get presents to their loved ones in time for the holiday.

"We hope so," Sam Wood said. "It said if we get it [sent out] today it would."

For shipping companies and stores, Christmastime means big business. The December holidays top Valentines Day and Mothers' Day as the busiest time for shipping companies.

Typically the entire month of December is a busy time, said Howie Young, owner of the Kanawha City UPS franchise.

"It's been kind of strange [this year]," Young said, looking up from the box he was shipping. "Usually the whole month of December is busy. [This year] it's only been busy the start of last week. A lot of people are waiting until the last minute."

This is Young's ninth Christmas as the UPS store's owner. The store hires a couple of people extra during the holiday season and extends its business hours, he said.

"UPS sends us a trailer," Young said. "Otherwise you wouldn't be able to move in here."

While the holidays are a busy time, Young is also expecting to be busy next month.

"The whole month of January we'll do all the returns," he said.

In addition to the shipments from the state's 12 UPS stores like the one that Young owns, UPS also plans to deliver 520,000 packages in West Virginia during its peak week, which began Dec. 17. An average week has the company delivering 295,000.

Nationwide during peak week, the company expected to ship more than 135 million packages around the world, including 28 million on its busiest day, Dec. 20, when the volume is almost 80 percent higher than usual. To accommodate the increase in business, UPS plans to fly 400 additional flights per day during peak week.

Last year, the company delivered 27 million shipments on its peak day.

For the U.S. Postal Service, Dec. 17 is the busiest day for sending packages and cards and Dec. 19 and 20 are the busiest days for delivery. The postal service expected more than 658 million pieces of mail to be processed Dec. 17, compared to 528 million for an average day.

At the postal service's Charleston Processing and Distribution Center, about 617,000 pieces of mail were expected to be processed Monday, up from 265,000 on an average Monday.

For FedEx, the busiest day this year was Dec. 10, a Monday, spokesman Chris Stanley said. On that day, 19 million shipments were expected, he said. Overall, 280 million shipments were expected between Thanksgiving and Christmas, an increase of 13 percent over last year.

Much of the increase had to do with a larger number people buying Christmas presents online and having them shipped, Stanley said.

For the Christmas season, FedEx brings in 20,000 more employees nationwide and 800 for a region that includes West Virginia and parts of Ohio. Shipping during the December holidays tops shipping for all other days of the year, Stanley said.

"We call this our Super Bowl," Stanley said. "... It's the biggest."

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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