NEW YORK (AP) - Call it the pregame show for Santa and his elves.
Monday was expected to be the busiest day in FedEx history, with nearly 16 million packages moving on its conveyer belts, trucks and planes. That's up 13 percent from 14.2 million on the busiest day last year, and double what the company handles on a normal day. That jump in shipments bodes well for the nation's retailers, online stores and larger rival UPS, which has its single busiest day next week.
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. Ebay expects mobile users to buy $1.5 billion worth of good this year compared with $600 million last year.
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 to 4 percent over last year.
Although this week is the busiest for both UPS and FedEx, you still have time to send packages to be under the tree by Christmas. The last day for guaranteed FedEx ground service delivery is Friday. Procrastinators can choose more expensive options like 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.