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What to Consider When Setting Holiday Order Deadlines

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By Sarah - October 18, 2023- in Go-Getter Blog

Setting holiday order deadlines is a popular method for creating urgency for your customers to complete a purchase – & for good reason: it’s effective! Order deadlines also help you set your customers’ expectations about whether their orders are likely to arrive in time to make it under their Christmas trees.

When setting order deadlines for your online store (or choosing whether to set them at all), there are many factors to consider. We’ve laid them out below to help you make informed holiday deadline decisions for your commerce store.

Encourage Early Ordering

The earlier an order is placed, the higher the likelihood that it arrives before Christmas. You may be tempted to extend your holiday deadlines in order to capture last-minute sales. However, be aware that this increases the likelihood your customers don’t receive their gifts on time. It also increases your chances of creating an unresolvable customer service situation.

Deadlines vs. Suggestions

The difference between a deadline & a suggestion may seem negligible, but deadlines are generally perceived as guarantees. If an order is placed before your deadline but doesn’t arrive until after Christmas, your customer is likely to come knocking for a refund. An order suggestion may use language like “for best chance of Christmas delivery” to help set your customers’ expectations that there are no guarantees of a specific delivery date.

Selling Platform

If you’re selling on a marketplace like Etsy or Amazon, you aren’t able to make deadlines or suggestions as obvious as you can on a standalone ecommerce website. However, you can add images to your listings that include deadline/suggestion dates. Keep in mind that when you’re selling on a marketplace, you’re also subject to that marketplace’s late shipment penalties, so be generous with your estimated lead times. While you may be shipping 90% of orders in 3-5 days, you’ll receive a penalty for any orders that take longer than that so it’s best to tack on extra time during the holidays. If too many orders extend past your projected lead times, you run the risk of account suspension.

Production Times for Product Types You’re Selling

Whether you’re selling exclusively Print-on-Demand items or a mix of POD & stocked inventory, some product-types will take longer to produce & ship than others. That’s why we provide average production times & projected lead times by product type throughout the holiday season (beginning Thursday, November 30). Production averages give you historical data on orders from the previous 7-day period, but lead times will give you an idea of how long a new order will take to produce. Update your lead times to accommodate the products you carry that have the longest lead times!

Extra Time for Anomalies

While most CustomCat orders will ship quickly (even during the holidays), you’ll want to account for possible processing or transit delays when you set your order deadlines. Production times tend to increase as holiday order volume rises – considering possible delays when setting your deadlines will provide a safety net. It’s always better to extend your holiday sales confidently if things are moving faster than you expected than to cut off sales earlier than advertised.

Shipping Methods You’re Offering

When setting order deadlines, you’ll need to consider how long an order will take to make it to your customer once it’s shipped. Average transit times will vary by destination & shipping method, but averages are just averages – some orders will take longer in transit than the average. If you’re offering expedited shipping, make it clear to your customers that expedited shipping does not mean expedited production & only affects time in transit. Expedited methods also may not be offered in all regions.

*Orders that ship by these dates (i.e. leave the CustomCat facility in Detroit after going through production) are projected to arrive by December 23:
OSM Economy: December 15 (transit estimates vary by proximity to Detroit, MI)
UPS Ground: December 18 (transit estimates vary by proximity to Detroit, MI)
UPS 2-Day: December 20
UPS Overnight: December 21

Holiday Delivery Schedules

Because Christmas is a national holiday & happens to fall on a Monday this year, it’s extra important to consider the last day parcels will be delivered to your customers. USPS will delivery on Saturday, December 23. However, UPS Expedited services like 2nd Day & Overnight will not deliver on Saturday. Additionally, no services deliver on Sunday, December 24. This means any deliveries that do not arrive to your customers by December 23 will not be delivered until Tuesday, December 26. That means 2nd Day shipments shipping on December 21 or Overnight shipments shipped on Friday, December 22 will arrive to your customers on the following business day, December 26.


Holiday Order Deadlines will be different from store to store & vary from year to year. However, by considering the factors above, you’re likely to make the decision that’s best for your customers – & for your bottom line. Happy (holiday) selling!

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