Amazon says its delivery times are picking up after long delays

But the company isn't back to business as usual.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
3 min read

An Amazon delivery van in New York in early April.

John Nacion/Getty Images

Amazon says it's getting closer to normal operations. 

In late March, the online retailer pumped the brakes on new shipments of nonessential items to its facilities and pushed back deliveries by as much as a month as it struggled to keep up with a spike in customer orders during the coronavirus pandemic. The company also has been forced to respond to concerns about safety at its warehouses, with dozens of locations reporting positive coronavirus cases.

Now the worst of the slowdowns appear to be behind the e-commerce behemoth, with the company saying it's been able to speed some deliveries and handle more goods coming into its facilities. Amazon in mid-April already lifted some restrictions on new goods coming into its fulfillment centers. The improvements in operations should help Amazon inch back toward business as usual. 

"We removed quantity limits on products our suppliers can send to our fulfillment centers," Kristen Kish, an Amazon spokeswoman, said Tuesday. "We continue to adhere to extensive health and safety measures to protect our associates as they pick, pack and ship products to customers, and are improving delivery speeds across our store."

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Amazon didn't provide details on its shipping times, but Juozas Kaziukenas, founder of the Marketplace Pulse research site, said two-day and one-day shipping is still spotty throughout the US and Amazon appears to be a long way from nationwide two-day shipping. However, he said an order he placed on Saturday in New York City arrived the next day, a positive sign that faster shipping times, including for nonessential items, are coming back. Kaziukenas earlier reported the improved delivery times.

The logistics improvements suggest Amazon may be getting a handle on its operations after struggling to keep up during the pandemic. Prime customers have been frustrated by the company's inability to offer regular two-day shipments, opening a window of opportunity to rival retailers that could temporarily offer faster deliveries. The improvements also bode well for Amazon's Prime Day, a highly anticipated summer sale that boosts revenue for many parts of the retail industry.

Last month, Reuters reported that Prime Day, which typically occurs in July, will be delayed this year because of the coronavirus crisis.

Amazon finance chief Brian Olsavsky in late April said he still didn't know when his company would be able to return to more one-day shipments, because it was taking longer to get items in and out of warehouses. Amazon's hiring of 175,000 new employees very likely helped to speed up its logistics.

Warehouse workers may not be as happy about the improvements as customers are. Several warehouse employees have protested because nonessential items were being shipped during the pandemic. The workers said they were risking their health to fulfill those shipments.

Amazon has said the company is making face masks, hand sanitizer and gloves available for workers, and is cleaning its facilities regularly.

Kaziukenas found other signs that Amazon's operations were stabilizing. He said the company is again accepting new daily deals and coupons, pointing to increased capacity for nonessential goods. These features were temporarily restricted during the pandemic as Amazon attempted to curb nonessential purchases on its site so it could manage all the incoming orders.

"Very clearly, they're silently opening things up," he said.