NEW YORK — This year, holiday stress may take on a whole new meaning for online retailers.
Amazon, Walmart and others have promised to deliver more of their orders within 24 hours of customers clicking on “Buy.”
The coming weeks will be the first test of whether they can make that happen during the busy holiday shopping season, when onslaughts of orders and bad weather can lay waste to even the best delivery plans.
It’s an expensive feat that requires not just additional planes and vehicles, but more workers and reams of data to help retailers prepare and predict what shoppers may buy.
And the stakes to deliver on time are high. A late package can damage a retailer’s reputation, since shoppers tend to blame them, even if the late arrival is the fault of the delivery company.
“The store made the promise,” said Suketu Gandhi, partner in the digital transformation practice at consulting firm A.T. Kearney.
Amazon learned that six years ago, when UPS and FedEx were crippled by bad weather and last-minute online shopping, causing millions of packages to be late for Christmas. Since then, the online shopping giant has been building its own delivery network to give it more control over when and how its packages are delivered. It has leased jets, built package-sorting hubs at airports and launched a program that lets contractors start businesses delivering packages in vans.
Others are feeling the pressure to keep up with Amazon. When the company introduced two-day shipping about 14 years ago, shoppers expected the same from other stores. That appears to be happening again.
“Customers love two-day delivery,” said Mark Cohen, a retail studies professor at New York’s Columbia Business School. “But they like one day better.”
Smaller retailers, however, will probably be hurt trying to pay for quicker shipping, said Cohen, who used to be an executive at Sears Canada.
The push for even speedier delivery comes after Amazon announced in April that it would cut its delivery for Prime members to one day from two. Walmart and Best Buy followed with their own announcements. Many smaller retailers are also trying to deliver quicker, according to UPS, which said it will have 11 more jets flying this year to keep up.
But many eyes will be on Amazon this holiday season and whether it will keep its delivery promises. That’s because 42% of all online sales this holiday season is expected to go to the Seattle company, according consulting firm Bain & Co.
It says it’s up to the challenge.
“We deliver for our customers every day and are confident in our ability to serve customers this holiday season,” Amazon said in a statement.
Amazon already had a chance to test out one-day shipping during its Prime Day event in July, which has become one of the company’s busiest shopping events.
It has another advantage: lots of cash. Amazon expects to spend about $1.5 billion during the holiday season, partly to move items closer to customers and pay for more worker shifts. It says the cost is worth it, since it’s already seeing customers spend more because of the switch to one-day delivery.
The spending starts even before a package hits the road. Retailers are using machine learning technology to predict what shoppers may buy and then placing those items in stores and warehouses closer to them, said Anne Goodchild, the director of the Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center at the University of Washington.
Amazon has more than 100 warehouses around the country to store, pack and ship goods. Walmart is using warehouses and stores near customers to pack next-day orders. Best Buy has opened warehouses near the heavily populated cities of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Target says more than 90% of online orders are packed at stores.
While Target doesn’t promise next-day delivery, it says that half of its two-day deliveries are showing up at customers’ doorsteps the next day. It’s also offering same-day delivery from stores for an extra fee and, like other retailers, it offers an option for customers to buy online and pick up from a store.
Shippers say they are ready for the influx of packages. UPS, which says next-day air shipments jumped 24% in the most recent quarter, has built more package sortation hubs that will help it process an additional 400,000 pieces per hour. FedEx will again be offering online retailers a way to ship next day or in two days when orders come in late afternoon or night. And the U.S. Postal Service says it will be delivering packages in more cities on Sunday, a change it typically does during the holidays.
But cities may not be prepared for the rushed deliveries. Goodchild said places like New York and Seattle are not built to deal with the vans and cars stopping to deliver, causing traffic and congestion.
“That’s where we see pressure,” she said.
AP Business Writers Anne D’Innocenzio in New York and David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — The House is plunging into a landmark impeachment week, with Democrats who once hoped to sway Republicans now facing the prospect of an ever-hardening partisan split over the question of removing President Donald Trump from office.
Lawmakers were getting their first look at the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report Monday night behind closed doors. The findings are expected to forcefully make the Democrats’ case that Trump engaged in what Chairman Adam Schiff calls impeachable “wrongdoing and misconduct” in pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democrats and Joe Biden while withholding military aid to the ally.
For Republicans offering an early rebuttal ahead of the report’s public release, the proceedings are simply a “hoax,” with Trump insisting he did nothing wrong and his GOP allies in line behind him. Trump tweeted his daily complaints about it all and then added a suggestive, if impractical, question: “Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?”
With the Judiciary Committee set to launch its first hearing Wednesday, the impeachment proceedings are presenting a historic test of political judgment in a case that is dividing Congress and the country.
Departing for a NATO meeting in London, Trump criticized the House for pushing forward Monday with proceedings while he was heading overseas, a breach of political decorum that traditionally leaves partisan differences at the water’s edge.
He predicted Republicans would actually benefit from the entire impeachment effort against him, though “it’s a disgrace for our country.”
For the Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces a critical moment of her leadership as she steers the process ahead after resisting the impeachment inquiry through the summer, warning it was too divisive for the country and required bipartisan support.
Speaking to reporters at the international climate conference in Madrid, Pelosi declined to engage with impeachment questions. “When we travel abroad, we don’t talk about the president in a negative way,” she said. “We save that for home.”
Possible grounds for impeachment are focused on whether Trump abused his office as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call to launch investigations into Trump’s political rivals. At the time, Trump was withholding $400 million in military aid, jeopardizing key support as Ukraine faced an aggressive Russia at its border.
The report, which the Intelligence panel will vote on Tuesday and make public, also is expected to include evidence the Democrats say suggests obstruction of Congress, based on Trump’s instructions for his administration to defy subpoenas for documents and testimony.
The next step comes when the Judiciary Committee gavels open its own hearing with legal experts to assess the findings and consider potential articles of impeachment ahead of a possible vote by the full House by Christmas. That would presumably send it to the Senate for a trial in January.
The Democratic majority on the Intelligence Committee says its report, compiled after weeks of testimony from current and former diplomats and administration officials, will speak for itself in laying out the president’s actions toward Ukraine.
Republicans pre-empted the report’s public release with their own 123-page rebuttal.
In it, they claim there’s no evidence Trump pressured Zelenskiy. Instead, they say Democrats just want to undo the 2016 election. Republicans dismiss witness testimony of a shadow diplomacy being run by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and they rely on the president’s insistence that he was merely concerned about “corruption” in Ukraine — though the White House transcript of Trump’s phone call with Zelenskiy never mentions the word.
“They are trying to impeach President Trump because some unelected bureaucrats chafed at an elected President’s ‘outside the beltway’ approach to diplomacy,” according to the report from Republican Reps. Devin Nunes of California, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Michael McCaul of Texas.
Trump on Monday pointed to Zelenskiy’s recent comments as proof he did nothing wrong. The Ukrainian president said in an interview he never talked to Trump “from the position of a quid pro quo,” but he didn’t say Trump did nothing wrong. In fact, he had strong criticism for Trump’s actions in the Time magazine interview.
With Ukraine at war with Russia, he said, its partners “can’t go blocking anything for us.”
Schiff said the GOP response was intended for an audience of one, Trump, whose actions are “outside the law and constitution.”
The finished Intelligence Committee report sets up the week’s cascading actions.
Democrats could begin drafting articles of impeachment against the president in a matter of days, with voting in the Judiciary Committee next week.
Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, plan to rely on procedural moves to stall the process and portray the inquiry as a sham.
The White House declined an invitation to participate, with Counsel Pat Cipollone denouncing the proceedings as a “baseless and highly partisan inquiry” in a letter to Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
Trump had previously suggested that he might be willing to offer written testimony under certain conditions, though aides suggested they did not anticipate Democrats would ever agree to them.
Cipollone’s letter of nonparticipation applied only to the Wednesday hearing, and he demanded more information from Democrats on how they intended to conduct further hearings before Trump would decide whether to participate.
Nadler said Monday if the president really thought his call with Ukraine was “perfect,” as he repeatedly says, he would “provide exculpatory information that refutes the overwhelming evidence of his abuse of power.”
House rules provide the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.
Asked why not have his lawyers participate, Trump said Monday: “Because the whole thing is a hoax. Everybody knows it.”
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
HUNTINGTON — When Jared Baldwin entered Cabell County Drug Court, he said he felt entitled to its resources and programs.
“I was very self-centered and I felt like I was entitled,” he said. “The truth of the matter is I am not.”
Baldwin was one of three people to graduate from Cabell County Drug Court on Monday at the Cabell County Courthouse.
Baldwin, 35, of Barboursville, is the father of four children ranging in ages from 1 to 7 years old.
“My family has helped me to learn that way of thinking was not going to work for me anymore,” he said. “Then I realized that these people in drug court didn’t have to help me. They did it because they care about me, my family and the community.”
Baldwin said he was asked what advice he would give to those in drug court today.
“The only piece of advice that I think will make things better is the sooner you realize drug court is a privilege and not a punishment, you will start to do better,” he said. “Success in drug court comes to those that trust the process and follow through with it.”
Joining Baldwin at Monday’s graduation ceremony was 32-year-old Zach Morrison, of Huntington.
“I just want to thank the drug court team,” Morrison said. “The program has taught me ways to better my life and have a better relationship with my family that I didn’t have before. It’s been a blessing and it’s changed my life.”
Also graduating on Monday was 24-year-old Khadijah Tanner, of Huntington.
“I want to thank the drug court team for putting up with me when I couldn’t even put up with myself,” she said. “I don’t really have family here. Most of my family is in Atlanta, but I found a family in you guys. If I hadn’t had the opportunity to come to drug court, I probably wouldn’t even be alive right now ...”
Cabell County Circuit Court Judge Greg Howard, who oversees the drug court, says it is an intensive addiction treatment program used as an alternative to jail time for those who qualify and are willing to participate. He said the county has one of the largest drug courts in the state with an average of 60 participants at any one time and about half graduate.
“We just had 35 drug court cases come before us today, prior to this ceremony,” he said. “But today is a special time for us to celebrate the hard work these graduates have put in over the past year-plus,” he said. “We actually have people here today that just started in the program and we think it’s important they see the accomplishments these graduates have made to get where they are today.”
Howard said there are about four to five graduations a year in Cabell County.
“We have one of the highest success rates in the state and are above the national average in terms of success,” Howard added.
The Cabell County Adult Drug Court program requires at least a year of random drug screenings, group and individual therapy sessions, weekly court hearings, regular employment and overall lifestyle changes. For those who can handle it, the program gives an opportunity for a second chance in life, Howard added.
Also at Monday’s drug court graduation were two justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Justice Tim Armstead thanked the graduates’ friends and family for the support of their loved ones while they made their way through the program.
“It’s so exciting, but also so emotional to hear these graduates’ stories from where they began to graduating today,” Armstead said. “We should also thank everyone that put the time and effort to help these graduates succeed.”
Justice Evan Jenkins told the three new drug court graduates that they are an inspiration to other participants in the program.
“You really do make us proud,” Jenkins said. “Your success is a powerful message of the effectiveness of this program.”
HUNTINGTON — St. Mary’s Medical Center is remembering loved ones who have died this holiday season with its special Memorial Christmas tree, which was dedicated in a ceremony Monday night.
People were allowed to purchase special ornaments in honor of lost loved ones with a minimum donation of $25 to the St. Mary’s Foundation, according to a news release.
Both the names of the loved one and the purchaser were placed on a plaque ornament to serve as a visible sign of love for those entering the medical center’s main lobby. To learn more, visit www.st-marys.org/christmastree.
All donations will be divided equally between the St. Mary’s Pallotti Fund and the St. Mary’s Hospitality House. The Pallotti Fund provides emergency assistance to patients and their families, as well as St. Mary’s employees, volunteers and retirees. The St. Mary’s Hospitality House provides shelter, nourishment and emotional support to families who have a loved one receiving care at St. Mary’s or another healthcare facility in the Tri-State.