Just after 9 a.m. one mid-December morning, the employees at the Whistler Post Office are bustling back and forth amongst piles of parcels and packages.
"This is pretty tight," said Kevin Sullivan, manager for Canada Post's Sea to Sky area, surveying the overstuffed backroom.
"It's hard to move around, but it will all disappear in the New Year."
The post office's seven staff members work quietly and efficiently, focused on moving, sorting and delivering the Christmas goods to a long line of patient customers out front.
"Right now, you can see how quiet it is, because everybody's doing their thing," Sullivan said. "Obviously they've got more time to talk... in the summer months."
The post office being busy on Christmas is nothing new, Sullivan said, but with the continued rise in online shopping, it gets a little busier each year.
"The parcel volume is way up. People find it more convenient," Sullivan said.
"The shipping fees are pretty reasonable, and when you count in your gas time and beating the crowd and standing in line, it's just more convenient."
The Whistler Post Office is not the busiest post office in Canada, but it's much busier than those found in towns with similar-sized populations, Sullivan said.
"Because it's a tourist destination, this would get way more than most of those places," he said. "I hear this year Yellowknife is setting records. We've sent more trucks up there than ever before, but they're isolated, so they would order online more."
According to Canada Post, 72 per cent of Canadian households are now shopping online (out of 15.5 million addresses), and 46 per cent of those shoppers have purchased three or more items for delivery in the past three months.
On an average day, the Whistler post office would see about 100 packages — in the weeks leading up to Christmas, that number jumps to around 350 per day.
The logjam is compounded this year due to the closing of a Canada Post Retail Post Office (RPO) this past September in Creekside.
Canada Post is now actively seeking another Whistler business to act as an RPO.
"We're looking for another business to help us, and just make it more convenient for the public here too, so they don't have to line up so long," Sullivan said.
The lineups in the weeks leading up to Christmas are indeed long — Sullivan said an average of 750 people are coming through each day in December — but staff have been managing it well, keeping the wait to a minimum despite dealing with a mountain of parcels.
"At this time of year, obviously we're extremely busy, and in a post office like Whistler where we have a lot of travellers, it certainly creates some very interesting congestion," said Anick Losier, spokesperson for Canada Post.
"But our employees are doing very well under the circumstances."
Traffic in post offices across the country is up 25 per cent in the weeks before Christmas, and a quarter of all parcels delivered throughout the year are delivered in December, Losier said.
"This is probably going to be our busiest week of the year," she said on Dec. 18. "This is when people are trying to make sure that they get their items out before the deadlines, or at least to get it with the most economical service."
And the rush won't be over until a few weeks after Christmas — as soon as the big day passes, and the Boxing Day madness begins.
"I would say mid-January it starts to slow down," Sullivan said.
"Because all the Boxing Day stuff comes out the first week of January."
Canada Post Christmas Stats
• More than 25 per cent of Canada Post's annual parcel volumes will come between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31.
• During the holiday season, Canada Post will deliver an average of 800,000 parcels daily. That translates into processing an average of 1,250 parcels per minute in Canada Post plants across the country.
• Canada Post's corporate fleet has 11,683 vehicles — if parked nose to tail, the fleet would be 54 kilometres long.
• The fleet travelled the equivalent of over 100 trips to the moon and back in 2013.
• Canada Post hired an additional 3,000 seasonal workers for this holiday season.
• So far in 2014, Canadians have tracked their items 165 million times on canadapost.ca or the Canada Post mobile app — 60 per cent of tracking is done via the Canada Post mobile app.
• Last year, Canada Post carriers delivered 30 million packages from Nov. 11 — Dec. 31 — five million more than the same period in 2012.
• Over the last year, online retail purchases in British Columbia have increased by 29 per cent, the most of any province in the country.
• Four out of five items ordered online are delivered in urban Canada (84 per cent).
• 38 per cent of parcels ordered online are delivered in Ontario.
• The highest growth in online shopping in 2014 was mostly western-based with Vancouver (39 per cent), Calgary (36 per cent) and Victoria (35 per cent). In Eastern Canada, Saint John and Fredericton, NB., increased by 21 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, and Halifax by 19 per cent.
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