UPS preparing for busy holiday shipping season

A UPS driver prepares to deliver packages. (2018 AP file photo/Patrick Semansky)

Combined ShapeCaption
A UPS driver prepares to deliver packages. (2018 AP file photo/Patrick Semansky)

UPS says it has been preparing for what it expects to be a record-breaking holiday shipping season by building additional automated facilities and adding jets to its fleet to handle more packages as online shopping continues to grow.

The Sandy Springs-based shipping giant said retail sales are forecast to grow more than 5% and online holiday retail sales are likely to reach a new high.

The addition of automated facilities allows the company to handle another 400,000 pieces per hour, UPS said. The company expects to deliver more than 32 million packages a day, up 50% over its regular daily volume.

The company is hiring 100,000 seasonal workers for the holiday shipping season, which starts the week of Thanksgiving, spikes the following week and lasts past Christmas with returns and purchases using gift cards. This year, however, a late Thanksgiving means a shorter holiday shopping season overall.

UPS also expects that a shift toward more widespread next-day delivery will drive increased demand for its services.

The company discussed its holiday shipping season plans while reporting a profit of nearly $1.75 billion for the third quarter, up from $1.5 billion a year ago. Quarterly revenue was up 5% to $18.3 billion.

One of the weaker spots is the company's international business because of slower economic growth globallytrade conflicts and Brexit uncertaintyCEO David Abney said the company has flexibility and agility to adjust to shifting international dynamics, noting the company shifted a new Boeing 747 cargo aircraft from the China-U.S. market to Europe.

Looking forward in e-commerce, Abney said he sees the biggest opportunity in helping small to mid-sized companies around the world compete with big retailers and e-tailers. “That is the key to our success and that’s what we’re driven to lean into more than in any other areas,” he said.

Also Tuesday, UPS announced that its chief operating officer, Jim Barber, will retire at the end of the year.

Barber, 59, was named COO last year. Prior to that, he had been president of UPS International since 2013.

Barber is the third C-level executive retirement UPS has announced in the past five months.

In June, the company announced the retirement of Teri McClure, chief human resources officer, who was replaced by Charlene Thomas. In August, UPS announced the retirement of Richard Peretz, chief financial officer, who was replaced by Brian Newman.