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economic activity in the the services sector continued to grow in December, according to the latest ISM Services report on the figures released last week. The services PMI – formerly known as the non-manufacturing NMI – was 57.2% last month, according to the report.

December’s figure was 1.3% higher than November’s rate of 55.9%. This figure represents the seventh consecutive month of growth after a contraction in the spring due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“In December, a slight acceleration in the growth rate of the services sector continued. Comments from respondents are mixed on business conditions and the economy,” Anthony Nieves, chair of the ISM Services Business Survey Committee, said in a press release. “Various local and state COVID-19 shutdowns continue to negatively impact businesses and industries. … Most respondents are cautiously optimistic about commercial terms with the recent approval and impending distribution of vaccines.

Supply chain experts involved in decentralized COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

Supply chain experts warn of current and potential challenges to the US rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine with a decentralized distribution plan relying on states and localities handling last-mile logistics to get shot in people’s arms, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 22 million doses had been distributed to states and other jurisdictions as of Friday, with 6.7 million people having received their first vaccine by that time. The numbers fell short of the US goal of 20 million people vaccinated by the end of 2020, according to the article.

US distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has focused on supply. Vaccines are targeted at specific groups, unlike high-speed supply chains that are demand-driven.

“If you had told the states that your priority was to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible, they would have run the campaign differently,” Julie Swann, a professor at North Carolina State University, told the WSJ. “But that’s not what they were told.”

Large retailers allow customers to keep unwanted goods rather than processing returns online

As the holiday shopping season transitions into return season, some major retailers in the United States are offering customers the opportunity to keep the refunded goodsaccording to Business Insider.

It makes more logistical and financial sense for large retailers like Walmart, Amazon and Target to deal in this way instead of the retailer keeping the merchandise. It’s especially useful for smaller, lower-cost items or ones where the item is unlikely to be resold, depending on the item. Return shipping and handling costs may be more than the cost of the product itself.

Fewer people than ever are heading to physical stores to make returns, according to the article. Online returns jumped 70% in 2020. Given the increase in e-commerce sales and returns, large retailers are reconsidering returns processing expenses that incur shipping costs. Also, many customers like to keep the extra merchandise.

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