With one week until Christmas, will your packages still make it on time?

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Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 6:25 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Retailers and shipping companies have spent weeks warning shoppers to buy Christmas gifts early to avoid any potential delays because of supply chain issues, but with a week to go before the holiday time is starting to run out for procrastinators.

The deadlines for packages sent by USPS Ground and First-Class Mail have passed as have the cheapest FedEx options. However, more limited and expensive options are still available.

Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and other large companies have faster delivery times for subscribers.

University of South Carolina operations management expert and professor of management sciences Mark Ferguson says big retailers have gone the extra mile to guarantee the arrival times they advertise are accurate.

“Some of the largest retailers have commissioned entire ships coming from Asia just to deliver their cargo,” Ferguson said.

He explained that during the pandemic, many people have turned to online shopping as a safer and more convenient option. But that added an extra strain to the system in addition to supply chain issues triggered by the pandemic.

“In terms of buying physical things, it is much higher as a percentage of paychecks than it has been in a really long time. Part of that is still the COVID effect. [People] are not traveling as much and spending as much on experiences and services as they used to,” Ferguson said.

But the shipping industry on the east coast, in particular around the Carolinas, has an advantage over ports in busier cities like Los Angeles.

“We have a fairly significant port and rail system,” Ferguson said about South Carolina. “Our port is not backed up as much as some of the others, in particular on the west coast. Our rail system, our inland ports, do not require physical truck drivers.”

He said that historically the cost for a shipping service to move materials from the port through Los Angeles is often higher than the cost of getting cargo to the port from Asia.

Ferguson said that the issues causing shipping delays are not new, but the increased demand has exacerbated them.

“The whole system is sort of patched together. It is still very manual…Our ports are not nearly as modernized as other ports in the world,” he said.

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