Online gift-buying procrastinators are expected to drive a 6 percent increase in UPS package deliveries the week before Christmas this year.
The world's largest package delivery company said Monday it expects a total of 120 million packages around the world during the company's "peak week," compared with 113 million last year.
The Atlanta company predicts its busiest day will be Dec. 22, when it expects to deliver 26 million parcels.
UPS' smaller rival, FedEx Corp., expects to handle 17 million packages on its busiest day, Dec. 12. That's 10 percent more than its busiest day last year. Both companies have seen steady growth in shipments throughout the critical holiday season because they're benefiting from continuing growth in shipments from shoppers that buy gifts from their home computers rather than the local mall.
UPS said it's also noticing that shoppers are ordering gifts online closer to Christmas. That's creating a compression of the company's busiest days in the last two weeks before Christmas. The peak season traditionally started around Thanksgiving before the rapid rise of e-commerce.
Because of this trend, UPS declined to offer a full estimate for how many packages it will deliver between the two holidays.
United Parcel Service Inc. predicts it will see five days this year where its deliveries will meet or exceed 25 million. All of those will be within the 10 days before Christmas. Last year, UPS only reached that level on its busiest day.
To keep up with the surge of packages, UPS plans to hire 55,000 seasonal workers in the U.S. to work as driver helpers, package sorters, loaders or unloaders.
That's up from the 50,000 it hired in 2010 and 2009, but down from the 60,000 it hired in 2007. UPS didn't say how many it hired in 2008.
Most deliveries on UPS' busiest day will come from online retailers like Amazon.com. The items shipped most often through UPS and FedEx during the holidays include books, clothes and personal electronics such as iPads and smartphones.