A Canada Post employee climbs into a mail truck in Halifax on Wednesday, July 6, 2016.Canada Post swung to a $66-million loss before taxes in the first quarter despite a surge in parcel volumes near the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

As 2020 looks more than likely to be a record year for online shopping, Canada Post is preparing to take on the huge demand for parcel delivery expected to hit the postal system this holiday season.

Recent Google analytics show many Canadians have already started their holiday shopping, and a survey from Canada Post in June found 54 per cent were planning on starting theirs in October or November. 

"Shopping early and spreading out purchases is key to avoiding the traditional short-term surge in online holiday shopping," a spokesperson for the agency said in a release. "With the expected volumes, the addition of a traditional holiday parcel surge has the potential to overwhelm capacity and cause significant delays." 

Canada Post says it has prepared a "comprehensive 2020 holiday peak season plan" to deal with the expected volume of packages, including: 

  • Adding 4,000 temporary seasonal employees
  • Increasing the Canada Post fleet by more than 1,000 vehicles
  • Delivering on weekends in some communities
  • Extending parcel pick-up hours at some post offices
  • Enhancing package tracking systems
  • And working with major customers to manage demand, improve package flow and encourage Canadians to shop early.

Experts have warned the postal system is likely to be overwhelmed this winter, as the usual holiday surge, which often delays deliveries even beyond Christmas, will be exponential because of COVID-19. 

"We've literally seen 10 years of change over these last few months," Eric Morris, head of retail for Google Canada, told CTV News Vancouver. In March and April, he says: "E-commerce in Canada surged to about 200 per cent growth vs. the previous year. And while it's tapered off in the summer, it's still at close to 70 per cent growth. That's three times the historical average."

And Canada Post is asking Canadians to shop earlier than usual to avoid disappointment. 

"Even with plans to upscale, add capacity and work with customers, a traditional holiday parcel surge combined with unprecedented volumes could overwhelm our capacity to process and deliver across the country," the release says. 

"Customers should also look for tips and sales through their favourite retailers, read their online shipping information and track items after purchase. In addition, anyone sending a parcel to friends or loved ones this holiday should do so as early as possible."