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With Monday seen as the busiest day in FedEx history, up 13 percent from 14.2 million on the busiest day last year, economists who track the shipper for signs of consumer spending trends and the health of the broader economy think the jump could bode well for the nation's retailers.
About half of the increase is from the company's SmartPost partnership with the U.S. Postal Service. SmartPost moves lighter, cheaper packages through FedEx that are then delivered by a postal worker. A growing number of online and catalog purchases is driving growth in that unit and across the company.
Online holiday spending since Nov. 1 is up 12 percent over last year, to nearly $22 billion, according to research company comScore. Last Monday and Wednesday ranked in the top five days for online spending ever, comScore said.
Consumers are using smart phones and other mobile devices, as well as computers, to buy and ship. Online auction and shopping website eBay said Monday that Sunday was its busiest mobile shopping day so far this year. In the U.S., shoppers bought $5 million worth of items on eBay, more than double on the same Sunday last year. Ebay expects mobile users to buy $1.5 billion worth of good this year compared with $600 million last year.
FedEx's larger rival, UPS, expects its busiest day next week. Online orders overall are likely to spike again this Friday, which many merchants are promoting as "Free Shipping Day."
Online spending increases come with modestly brighter prospects for holiday spending in general. Retail experts predict total spending will increase by 2 percent to 4 percent over last year.
Severe weather, including a weekend blizzard in the Midwest, was not hindering deliveries significantly, Fed-Ex spokeswoman Deborah Willig said Monday.
Consumers still have time to send packages to be under the tree by Christmas. The last day for guaranteed Fed-Ex ground service delivery is Friday. Procrastinators can choose more expensive options such as FedEx two-day shipping until Tuesday, Dec. 21, or overnight service through Dec. 23.
UPS expects its busiest day closer to Christmas, on Dec. 22, when it will move about 24 million packages. That's 60 percent more than a normal day. The Atlanta-based company will accept packages for Christmas delivery through Dec. 23.
Lots of shipping
Santa's on his way • Monday was thought to be the busiest day in FedEx history, with nearly 16 million packages moving on its conveyer belts, trucks and planes.
Online spree • About half of the increase was from the company's SmartPost partnership with the U.S. Postal Service. SmartPost moves lighter, cheaper packages through FedEx that are then delivered by a postal worker.
Holiday cheer • The jump in shipping could be a good sign for the nation's retailers and larger rival UPS, which is expecting its single busiest day next week.