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FedEx says an ‘unprecedented’ surge in online shopping caused Christmas delays

Despite forecasting several months ago that it expected to handle a record number of packages this holiday season, the shipping giant still experienced serious difficulties in getting everything delivered on time.

Of course, atrocious weather conditions in several parts of the country certainly didn’t help, but the company admitted on Monday that the sheer volume of packages in its system had also caused issues – an amount that “far exceeded all previous records,” the company said in a statement reported by Bloomberg.

FedEx didn’t give any actual figures but blamed some of its problems on “an unprecedented surge of last-minute e-commerce shipments” flooding into its system in the final days before Christmas, a roundabout way of telling online shoppers to hit the “Buy” button a little – or a lot – sooner next time around.

The issue at the end of last week was so serious that FedEx paid thousands of workers to make extra deliveries on Christmas Day in a bid to clear the backlog and minimize the impact on customers waiting for gifts.

Related: Amazon adds three million Prime customers in the week leading up to Christmas

With online shopping continuing to grow in popularity, many will be wondering why measures put in place to cope with an increase in packages at this time of year have proved ineffective.

FedEx’s battle to deliver everything on time during the busiest part of the year follows similar struggles among delivery firms in years gone by. In a high-profile episode two years ago, UPS and FedEx both had a hard time coping with an influx of packages, leading to late deliveries for many Amazon customers. The e-commerce giant tried to mollify customers with $20 gift vouchers.

Keen to take more control over its shipping operation and rely less on the major players, Amazon has been testing out its own cargo-plane operation to move goods around the country. In recent months, it launched an Uber-style system to get more delivery drivers on board to improve its last-mile efforts, while the company is also continuing with its ambitious plan to create a delivery system utilizing drone technology.