Kurt Salmon Reveals Retailers on Santa’s Nice List for Holiday Shipping

NEW YORK--()--Like Christmas light competitions between neighbors, today’s holiday shipping environment only continues to heat up. In this increasingly competitive space, retailers again increased their accuracy in getting orders to consumers—and more are doing it for free—but delivery speeds disappointed vs. last year.

That’s according to a Kurt Salmon study of online orders from 62 retailers across a broad range of categories, including traditional big boxes, specialty retailers and online-only e-tailers. The study analyzed online orders that were shipped to consumers, as well as those picked up in-store to measure shipping speed, accuracy and cost.

This year’s fastest companies delivered on average in 2.8 days, the same as last year’s top performers.

Santa’s Nice List for 2015 Holiday Shipping—Fastest Delivery Times

Delivered in 1 Day: Zappos*

Delivered in 2 Days: Lowe’s, Barneys,* Burberry

Delivered in 3 Days: REI, Saks, Amazon,* Under Armour*

Delivered in 4 Days: Bloomingdale’s

* Retailers on Santa’s Nice List 2014

However, outside of the top 10 performers, many retailers ended up on the naughty list. The average order-to-delivery time across all 62 retailers studied was 6.9 days—20% slower than the average of all retailers surveyed in last year’s study.

“This year, we really saw the top retailers separate themselves from the rest of the pack,” said Kurt Salmon retail strategist Steve Osburn. “And, like Rudolph, we expect many retailers will try to follow these top performers’ lead next year, leading to even happier holidays for consumers if retailers can execute against their wish lists.”

All I Want for Christmas Is … Free Shipping

A whopping 90% of retailers offered a way for customers to get free shipping, up 15% from 2014. And 64% of retailers offered free shipping on everything, up nearly 50% from 2014. Plus, this year, 35% more retailers offered buy online, pick up in store (BOPUS) or reserve-in-store opportunities. Additionally, many retailers who offered these services in a few stores last year have expanded them to more, if not all, of their stores. Since this is typically the fastest way to get your order, and is usually free, this is good news for consumers.


While 35% more retailers are offering the buy online, pick up in store option, and many retailers who offered it in 2014 have expanded the service to additional doors, it was clear that many of them are still on thin ice.

The winners—Target, Macy’s and Lowe’s—provided good communication after the purchase, had the order ready in less than two hours and made the pickup experience quick and easy. Most importantly, the experience was equally painless across all of the chain’s tested stores.

But many more retailers were on the naughty list when it came to BOPUS. In fact, only 40% of BOPUS transactions were error free this year, compared to 91% of delivered orders in the study and 98% of delivered orders during the rest of the year. This huge service gap—especially in such a customer-facing area—exposes retailers and can leave customers out in the cold.

Speedier Sleighs, Faster Delivery

Improved execution enabled 80% of retailers to complete orders within two weeks of Cyber Monday, up from 66% in 2014, with 9% fewer cancelled orders. Overall delivery time has increased 21% from 2014.

Retailers “Bah Humbug” at Cost to Serve

With more distribution points, the number of packages per order is increasing. Paired with less revenue from shipping, with only 10% charging a fee, retailers are facing higher-than-ever fulfillment costs.

Turbulence Ahead for Santa’s Sleigh?

Higher-than-anticipated e-commerce volumes have stressed carrier networks. For example, 9% of packages sent via UPS Ground encountered some type of unexpected delay in the shipping process. While these are typically small delays and pale in comparison to some retailer-caused delays, they point to a larger problem—a carrier network at capacity.

You only have to look back to 2013 to find out what could happen if the order volumes exceed retailer and carrier capacity. That was the year that 15% of the packages Kurt Salmon ordered at the last minute did not make it under the tree in time.

About Kurt Salmon

Kurt Salmon is a global management consulting firm dedicated to building the market leaders of tomorrow. More than just partnering with our clients, we ally with them, integrating ourselves seamlessly into their organizations in order to develop innovative, customized solutions for their 21st-century business issues.

Succeeding in today’s increasingly complex, consumer-driven environment is an enormous challenge. But companies need to look beyond today; they need to position themselves for continued success in the even more uncertain future. That’s where Kurt Salmon comes in.

We call it delivering “success for what’s next.” The results are transformative.



For Kurt Salmon
Liz DeForest, 212-584-5477

Release Summary

Kurt Salmon's holiday shipping study finds retailers increased their accuracy in getting orders to consumers—and more are doing it for free—but delivery speeds disappointed vs. last year.


For Kurt Salmon
Liz DeForest, 212-584-5477