The Holidays Test Next-Day Delivery

On December 1st, Walmart disabled next-day delivery nationwide. The company restored it only two weeks later on the 15th. This year’s calendar meant the shortest possible holiday shopping season of 26 days - the number of days between Black Friday and Christmas eve. For more than half of it, the highly promised next-day delivery was absent.

Out of the fifty million products for sale on Walmart.com, only just over a hundred thousand are available with next-day delivery. None were available during the two weeks at the start of December, however. At the time, close to three million products were available with two-day shipping instead. On December 20th, with only a few days left before Christmas, next-day availability begun to drop again.

Walmart next-day delivery availability

Starting in April, US e-commerce companies began battling it out on next-day delivery. However, there is an unsurprising gap between capacity and promises. Not limited to Walmart, all major retailers are racing to upgrade warehouses, invest in from-store delivery, as well as to build last-mile delivery networks.

Walmart’s next-day delivery debuted in May for customers in Arizona, California, and Nevada. By August, Walmart expanded the next-day delivery service, growing the number of states with next-day delivery more than thirty, and got closer to the 75% of the US population goal the company has set out to reach by the end of the year.

Other retailers didn’t take as drastic moves as Walmart did. Amazon, for example, didn’t completely shut down the next-day delivery service, although very few items were available with it in days following Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Broader two-day shipping for Prime members was limited, too, often showing up to week-long delivery times. Amazon shows a Prime badge even when it can’t deliver orders in two-days, creating confusion for some consumers.

Record-breaking shopping during the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, as well as the short holiday shopping season, means a higher volume of packages each day compared to the years prior. But with the expectation of next-day delivery set earlier in the year, there are limits to how many of those packages can meet it. There are going to be significant investments by both Amazon and Walmart in the future to chase next-day delivery, even days before Christmas.

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Juozas "Joe" Kaziukėnas

Founder of Marketplace Pulse, Joe wears multiple hats in the management of Marketplace Pulse, including writing most of the articles. Based in New York City. Advisor to other startups and entrepreneurs. Occasional speaker at conferences.

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