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DHL’s New U.S. Head Talks Holiday E-commerce, Global trade, and China

November 18, 2015, 8:04 PM UTC
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Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

DHL Express today announced a series of leadership changes that includes the retirement of its Americas CEO.

Stephen Fenwick, who led the unit covering North and South America, will be replaced by current U.S. CEO Mike Parra. Greg Hewitt, a ten year DHL veteran, will take over Parra’s U.S. responsibilities, and report to him.

Hewitt said in an interview with Fortune that the succession from within is proof that DHL’s regional business is going well and needs no major shakeup.

“Strategically, we’ve been talking about two things – growth and quality,” he said.

To prove his point, Hewitt pointed to 5% growth in international express packages sent from the U.S. and a 30% increase in inbound shipments to the U.S. Much of that can be attributed to e-commerce, which is lifting the business of other major package delivery services as well.

UPS , for instance, recently reported 10% third-quarter growth in international shipping volume.

To accommodate its growth, DHL, which is owned by Deutsche Post AG, has invested heavily in new U.S. facilities including $100 million in its main Cincinnati hub. It has also spent heavily on smaller regional centers including Allentown, Pa.

In the short run, those expansions will help DHL deal with the increasingly severe spikes in volume express carriers get over the holidays. Hewitt, who got his start with DHL in Canada, said the holiday surge was like “a hockey stick,” and that, as usual, DHL has been hiring aggressively and leasing extra trucks to get ready. DHL’s U.S. volumes are expected to peak at 250,000 packages moved on Dec. 22.

Hewitt did issue a mild plea to holiday shoppers, especially those ordering internationally. “When they’re going online, when they’re placing those orders, do it early. Give us, on the transportation side, time to deliver [your] goods,” he said. While he says DHL is more than equipped for the holidays, he can’t control customs systems that get choked around Christmas.

Aside from e-commerce, Hewitt sees other long-term trends that will impact the demand for both express and freight shipping. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement that is awaiting U.S. approval, will both lower international barriers for small and mid-sized American businesses, he says. It would also potentially increase demand for U.S. exports by making Asian economies more robust.

“We just expect to see greater trade flows,” Hewitt says, “Which means greater shipping opportunities.”

That pattern is already playing out in China, where Hewitt says the growth of the Chinese middle class is helping make U.S.-China shipping routes more two-sided.

Parra and Hewitt will move into their new positions in January.

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