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COVID-19’s Impact on USPS International Shipping Deadlines

October 22nd, 2020

A typical year would have us just simply post the USPS holiday shipping deadlines and say “enjoy a great holiday shipping season”, but this year is like none other.

In my 20+ years of work with USPS international services I’ve never witnessed a more interesting year than 2020. I spoke with Kelley Martinez, Vice-President at RR Donnelly (a large international consolidator) and she agreed “It has been a very unique year with every day presenting new challenges. Volume surges during historically slower periods coupled with destination suspensions and resumptions with little notice has been both challenging and rewarding.” 

So, let’s have an honest conversation about 2020 “Peak” and what you really need to know about the international shipping deadlines for the 2020 holiday season.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines at First Glance

After reviewing the holiday shipping deadline (see table below) for major international markets, the USPS deadlines have not changed much from previous years. This is very interesting since postal and shipping carriers across the globe have seen delivery delays due to COVID-19 closures and increased residential delivery due to growth in e-commerce. 

First Class Package International Service201820192020
Africa1-Dec30-Nov30-Nov
Asia/Pacific Rim8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Australia/New Zealand8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Canada8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Caribbean8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Central & South America1-Dec30-Nov30-Nov
Mexico8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Europe 8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Middle East8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Priority Mail International201820192020
Africa1-Dec30-Nov30-Nov
Asia/Pacific Rim8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Australia/New Zealand8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Canada8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Caribbean8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Central & South America1-Dec30-Nov30-Nov
Mexico8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Europe 8-Dec9-Dec7-Dec
Middle East8-Dec9-Dec7-Dec
Priority Mail Express International201820192020
Africa8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Asia/Pacific Rim15-Dec14-Dec14-Dec
Australia/New Zealand15-Dec14-Dec14-Dec
Canada15-Dec16-Dec14-Dec
Caribbean15-Dec14-Dec14-Dec
Central & South America8-Dec7-Dec7-Dec
Mexico15-Dec14-Dec14-Dec
Europe 15-Dec14-Dec14-Dec
Middle East15-Dec14-Dec14-Dec

There are two challenges that we feel will have a significant impact on international parcel delivery during the holiday peak period.  After analyzing global parcel delivery over the last 120 days, we feel you should allow for 1-2 weeks of delay for peak this year. So, if take the most popular product by volume and destination (First Class Package International Service to Canada) and the USPS deadline provides a “mail by December 7” date, then I would try to have it out by November 30 to be safe.

Challenge #1 – COVID-19’s Impact on International Airplane Transportation

Many might not know, but those very planes you take to visit your Aunt in France are the same planes that deliver packages to other countries. Reduced routes because of COVID-19 means fewer flights and fewer flights means more packages being held waiting at transportation hubs. The situation became such an issue that USPS has resorted to ocean freight for parcels. If transportation is still limited during the holiday season, then we should expect continued delays from international transportation alone.

Challenge #2 – COVID-19’s Impact on Domestic Parcel Delivery

USPS has five international service centers located around the country in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Miami. Depending on where you ship your package, your shipments will travel through one of these locations. To get your package to these locations, your shipments will travel on the very same network used for domestic shipments. Right now, USPS is experiencing an increase in domestic parcel delivery (up 46% in July 2020, compared to July 2019 according to data from ShipMatrix) and the holiday peak period is starting to look like a monster. If the domestic network gets clogged it will surely impact the speed of your international shipments to one of those processing centers.

Giving a Refresh on the USPS International Shipping Deadlines

I would start your Q4 seasonal sales promotions by at least two weeks earlier than previous years. By doing so it will allow a little more time to get your packages to your recipient and it will fall outside the typical holiday windows that will impact domestic and international transportation.

Should I Seek an Alternative Carrier?

Not necessarily. USPS still offers a very competitively priced product and with proper planning, you should be fine. Also, other alternatives are not immune to some of the same delivery issues and this year looks to be a challenge for all in the international shipping space. At GlobalPost, we try to address these impacts by using a mix of postal based services using USPS and other postal operators to provide the best possible postal optimized delivery experience. 

What is GlobalPost?

The GlobalPost delivery network leverages partnerships with international postal operators as well as commercial carriers to offer worldwide delivery. GlobalPost services reach over 200 countries and territories and include features not found in traditional international postal services. Get more info on International Shipping.

About the author

Shea Felix, General Manager – GlobalPost

With years of implementing global business solutions under his belt, Shea Felix brings distinct insights into the world of shipping. As the global shipping guru for Stamps.com, Shea inspires and empowers small businesses to take their services global. He is experienced in strategic planning and tactical execution, and has an exceptional understanding of product development, cross-border trade and logistics, e-commerce technology, website and mobile design, and global online marketplaces.

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