Hundreds of thousands of people are worried these days that the Christmas gifts they ordered online will arrive on time. But an analysis shows that delivery promises are broken more often than ever. From whom in particular and what else customers should pay attention to.

Expectations of the Christ Child have risen significantly: in the past, wish lists had to be written weeks before Christmas. After all, it sometimes took several visits to shops and the way to the city centers was difficult and exhausting, especially in mid-December. Today, in the age of instantness, people have become accustomed to a near-zero lead time. Pajamas, books and tonies can be ordered with a click and – if in stock – at home within a very short time. Hardly any argument is more important for online retailers than fast home delivery.

But especially at Christmas and especially this year, promises are broken in a row. The management consultancy Accenture used test purchases at 55 online retailers to examine the delivery behavior. The result: On average, customers have to wait 3.7 days before they receive their order – a day longer than the retailers promised. According to the experts, many sellers underestimated the difficult conditions. The corona boom seemed to be over, which prompted them to promise shorter delivery times. But they were apparently overly optimistic. Delivery times have hardly improved compared to previous years, when lockdowns left inner cities orphaned and people had to order online.

The differences between the sectors are significant. Desire and reality diverge particularly strongly in the case of fashion brands. On average, they promised their customers a delivery time of 3.7 days – but in December it was 4.9 days. Some companies even need more than eight days. It should be noted that the delays did not apply to goods on sale, which one could understand, but to normal items.

Even with the industry leader Amazon, there were significant fluctuations in reliability. Delivery times were up to seven days. With competitor Zalando, it could take up to eleven days. When asked about the mishap, the dealers spoke of individual cases and that the results of the test purchases did not reflect the true picture. The average delivery times were better than stated. However, neither Amazon nor Zalando wanted to and could not prove this with concrete figures.

However, there were also bright spots in the analysis that Accenture carried out for the sixth year in a row: furniture, consumer electronics and hardware store items arrived at home much faster than in 2021. Accenture calculated an average waiting time of 3.1 days in this area. In 2021 it was 5.2 days. With a delivery time of around two days, the DIY stores Obi and Bauhaus, Media Markt and the furniture retailer XXXLutz were the best.

The dealers do not give delivery times voluntarily, but because the legislator obliges them to do so. If this obligation expires, customers have the right to withdraw from the purchase contract. The traders are therefore taking a high risk if they set themselves too tight a deadline. On the other hand – especially before Christmas – fast delivery can be the decisive selling point. After all, the competitor is just a click away – the market is transparent. More and more are tricking and extending the delivery period. While this is legal, it remains to be seen whether customers will accept the delivery time given as “between December 22nd and 28th”. It is also permitted for retailers not to define the delivery date, but rather when the item is “ready for shipment”. 25 percent do it now. Whether that helps the customer can also be doubted.

Admittedly, the situation for traders has become increasingly difficult. Personnel problems – keyword shortage of skilled workers – endanger the processes in your own warehouse. Manufacturers can no longer deliver as reliably as they used to – which, according to experts, is likely to continue for a few months. And delivery by the parcel service is sometimes a gamble given the sheer volume of parcels. So customers have to get used to longer delivery times, even if things shouldn’t be as bad during the year as they were before Christmas. And more and more often they have to pay for delivery. According to Accenture, only seven percent of orders are delivered free of charge, compared to 21 percent in the previous year. There is often a minimum order value. Customers should therefore take a close look and compare.

Anyone who has received their package in time for Christmas despite the problems may have to fear another discussion under the Christmas tree: How sustainable is online shopping? After flight shame, would shipping shame be appropriate? Not necessarily, according to calculations by experts. Those who come to their trusted shop on foot or by bike are better off in terms of CO2 than online buyers. But when the purchase is made by car, the situation is different. Putting everything together, i.e. including the energy consumed in shops, the mail order business then accounts for around half of the emissions. A parcel van also takes up less space on the street than 100 cars, if everyone rushes into the city center individually. In addition, more and more delivery vehicles are now being driven electrically.

But online consumers shouldn’t cheer too soon and keep on ordering: Distribution accounts for only one to ten percent of the total carbon footprint of a product. So ordering fewer and more durable products is important for the environment. And if that happens in time, you don’t have to worry about your trusted dealer at Christmas. After all, the Christ child doesn’t know: Christmas is again on December 24th this year.