STORES, MAKERS GIVE UPS MIXED REVIEWS

Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — United Parcel Service continued to play catch-up last week on deliveries after the 15-day walkout by its drivers ended Aug. 19, causing extended headaches for some stores and apparel makers as they moved deeper into the fall retailing season.
However, some other users of the service said things were back to normal.
At Collection 94, an Indianapolis specialty store selling better sportswear, for example, shipments last week were taking seven days to arrive, instead of three. The delay, and the additional backup in shipments undelivered during the strike, have resulted in reorders arriving just as first orders were being put out to sell.
“We’re doubled up on merchandise,” said Julie Graziano, assistant buyer. Store officials are still deciding whether to send the second wave of merchandise back since fall sales are picking up. “Now people know the strike is over, and they’re coming in and shopping,” she said.
At Los Angeles-based Lola Inc., manufacturer of the XOXO junior label, sales representative Moses Strathern described UPS last week as a “semi-reliable parcel service,” but added that he expected deliveries to be back to normal this week.
The firm relies on UPS for 80 percent of its deliveries to small stores. By Friday, Lola Inc. was using UPS for all but 10 percent of these deliveries.
“We have one store in McAllen, Tex., that depends on a steady stream of merchandise from us, so we’re shipping to them by air,” Strathern said. “Obviously, we don’t want to be stuck with merchandise.”
A UPS spokeswoman at its headquarters in Atlanta said the company last week had almost finished delivering the backlog of packages stuck en route when the strike started. The company was still not at normal service levels as of Friday and officials were aware of delays. The spokeswoman said service is improving and should be closer to normal this week.
The delays in UPS deliveries have been particularly stressful for Dan Letzt, owner of children’s wear maker Les Tout Petite. As of Friday, about 60 shipments that had been picked up nine days prior from its Ridgefield, N.J., headquarters still hadn’t been delivered.
“All the stores are screaming,” Letzt said.
Nevertheless, some other companies contacted have said their UPS shipments are back to normal. “We’ve been OK. I haven’t heard of anything crazy happening,” said Janet Nunez, women’s manager at New York retailer Charivari.
“It’s back to normal,” said Tony Smith, shipping coordinator at Necessary Objects, a New York junior apparel manufacturer.
A spokeswoman for Spiegel Inc., which also owns Eddie Bauer, said no delays with UPS have been experienced, although the company is still phasing in use of the service. During the strike, the catalog house switched deliveries to the U.S. Postal Service and other companies. The spokeswoman said Spiegel isn’t entirely ready to recommit to UPS until the company settles its contract with the Independent Pilots’ Association.
“If there’s another service disruption, we want to be prepared,” she said.

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