Amazon brings Whitehorse, Yellowknife 5-day delivery, but no service for small communities

Amazon brings Whitehorse, Yellowknife 5-day delivery, but no service for small communities

by Sue Jones
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The U.S. online retail giant says it will cut delivery time from their reported average of 10 to 12 days down to around five days, but small communities in Yukon and N.W.T. still won’t have access to free Prime shipping.

Amazon Pick Up Iqaluit

Amazon’s pickup depot at the Iqaluit airport opened in 2020. The company says logistical changes will allow Prime delivery to Whitehorse and Yellowknife in around five days. (Nick Murray/CBC News)

Several Whitehorse residents say Amazon deliveries almost always take a few weeks to arrive, but the company is promising to bring shipping times to Yellowknife and Whitehorse down to around five days.

The previous average shipping time reported by the company was 10 to 12 days.

The U.S. online retail giant made several logistical changes to speed up ground deliveries from their nearest warehouse in Edmonton, said Adam Baker, Amazon’s vice president of global transportation services. 

While delivery times may be dropping in the two northern cities, smaller communities are still out of luck.

In 2015, Amazon withdrew free Prime shipping to several “remote communities” in the Yukon and N.W.T., blaming the “economic and shipping complexities in remote locations.”

Residents skeptical of announcement

Many Whitehorse residents are skeptical the company can deliver on their five-day shipping promise. They say service has become increasingly unreliable over the past few months.

“Nowhere have I ever ordered anything and it was here within five days,” said Marsh Lake resident Denise Faulhaber.

In a city with limited shopping options, Faulhaber says she uses the company to buy items that stores don’t carry. She thinks faster delivery is “impossible.”

Whitehorse resident Blaine Dumkee has had several bad experiences with severely delayed parcels taking two to three weeks to show up on his doorstep.

“It sounds like they’re a company that’s totally overwhelmed with the number of packages and trying to get things out has become difficult,” said Dumkee. “The last month, two orders have been in Whitehorse sitting in the warehouse 10 days before they’ve been delivered.”

He said Canada Post has delivered goods to his home faster than Amazon in the past, and they advertise shipping times from Edmonton to Whitehorse to be around four to seven days.

Dumkee said he won’t get several gifts he ordered off Amazon in time for Christmas and is disappointed with the company.

Amazon Delivery Pandemic Covid Coronavirus Packages Mail

A delivery driver stacks Amazon packages in their van in Ottawa Jan. 18, 2021. Many Northerners use Amazon to buy products they can’t easily find in local shops. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Pacific Northwest Freight Systems is contracted by Amazon to deliver parcels to Whitehorse as of Dec. 1, and operations manager Shayne King says five-day delivery is possible.

King says once they pick up parcels from Amazon’s Edmonton warehouse, they arrive in Whitehorse by the next evening and within a day, are delivered to a local sorting warehouse. 

He says shipments should arrive at people’s doorstep within 24 hours of reaching the sorting warehouse.

Amazon says faster shipping benefits northern businesses

Meanwhile, Baker says the benefit of speedier shipping is “vast” for small northern businesses.

“It goes a long way to help out the small businesses that both reside in these remote territories to get their raw materials and goods so they can service their customers,” he said.

It allows faster access for small business providers to reach customers in Yellowknife and Whitehorse, he said.

Baker said efforts to improve delivery times in Yellowknife and Whitehorse began after Amazon’s success in Iqaluit.

In 2020, the company opened a pickup depot in Nunavut’s capital, which cut delivery times from two to three weeks, down to three to five days.

Iqaluit Amazon

Iqaluit resident Aaron Ejetsiak carries an Amazon box in front of the local post office. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

The company partnered with Inuit-owned airline Canadian North which brought flights from Ottawa to Iqaluit two times a week with a dedicated cargo space reserved for Amazon Prime orders.

Several Iqaluit residents said the company’s move to plant roots in Nunavut was welcomed.

As the company opened up a variety of online shopping options for communities without malls or big box stores, it also opened up Iqaluit to southern pricing on food and smaller items.

Items like non-perishable food, toothpaste, tampons and deodorant on Amazon often half-price compared to Iqaluit’s local stores, where prices are driven up by shipping costs, staff wages and power bills.

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