NEW YORK — A procrastinator's holiday wish come true: Presents ordered at the last minute can now show up under the Christmas tree that same day.
Amazon, Target, Macy's and other retailers are offering speedier delivery, including overnight and same-day options that will continue even past the holidays.
The focus on faster shipping is one way retailers are catering to shoppers who have become increasingly finicky and impatient. Since the recession, it's not enough to get lower prices; they want the deepest discounts. And when it comes to ordering online, orders need to be shipped fast.
"I'll pay extra to get something right away," says Wendy Connors, a 47-year-old mother of three from Menlo Park, Calif.
Quick delivery is important for retailers as they head into the winter holiday shopping season, when they can make up to 40 percent of their annual sales. U.S. shoppers are expected to spend $61 billion online in November and December, according to research firm comScore.
Retailers can't afford a repeat of last year, when UPS and FedEx failed to deliver some packages by Christmas because of a combination of poor weather and overloaded systems, causing angry customers.
UPS forecasts it will deliver 585 million packages in December, an 11 percent increase over 2013, and FedEx expects to deliver 290 million packages, up 8.8 percent from last year. But comScore expects online spending will grow 16 percent to $61 billion.
Retailers hope speedier delivery options will help spread out shipments throughout the season so there's not a big crunch toward the end like there was last year.
Amazon expanded its Sunday delivery service, adding more than 10 distribution centers and 15 smaller sorting centers that sort packages by ZIP code and transport them to U.S. Postal Service offices. It also expanded same-day delivery, available for $5.99 per order to members of its $99 annual Prime loyalty program, to more cities.
Other online retailers are offering same-day delivery, too. Google relaunched its Google Shopping service, which costs $10 a month for membership or $4.99 per order and offers same-day delivery from Costco, Toys "R" Us and other retailers in about six metro areas. And eBay has retooled its "eBay Now" same-day delivery service, introduced in 2012, from a stand-alone app to a method of payment available on its site.
Tech companies aren't the only ones offering same-day delivery. Macy's, Bloomingdale's and six mall chains partnered with tech company Deliv to offer the service in major markets. Same-day delivery is mainly available in big cities, but elsewhere retailers are working to cut delivery times.
In October, Target rolled out a program to ship items directly from 140 stores in 40 markets, covering most of the country. Shipping directly from a store speeds up delivery because stores are often closer to customers' homes than a warehouse. Target spokesman Eddie Baeb says that cuts shipping time in half, from an average of four days to two.
Best Buy, which shipped items from 400 stores last holiday season, will ship from all 1,400 stores this time. It also is giving customers precise delivery information.