Retailers ready for ‘free shipping day’ and last-minute shopping crunch

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 331 views 

Now just 11 days away from Christmas, it’s crunch time for shoppers and retailers alike, especially those consumers seeking to finish up holiday purchases online. Free Shipping Day, slated for Friday (Dec. 16) is in its ninth year and hundreds of retailers from Cabela’s to Walmart plan to take part.

The full list of participating retailers and the respective deals will be revealed on the Free Shipping Day website on Dec. 16. With two days to go, more than 1,018 retail merchants have registered for this year’s event. Orders placed online Free Shipping Day are guaranteed to be delivered by Dec. 24. The date of Free Shipping Day changes every year based on which day of the week Christmas falls on the calendar.

“Since our event is a couple of days earlier than last year, we could see (merchant) participation numbers reach close to 2,000,” said founder Luke Knowles.

Consumers are increasingly turning to the internet to fulfill their holiday gift lists, with 57% of shoppers surveyed by the National Retail Federation planning to shop online this season. A separate study conducted by PR firm Walker Sands found 88% of shoppers are more likely to buy online when free shipping is offered. Knowles said it’s easy to understand why e-retailers are participating in Free Shipping Day.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ weekly analysis of 40 retailer websites revealed that retailers such as Apple, Best Buy, Costco, Lululemon, Nordstrom, Target, Toys R Us, and Urban Outfitters were among those already offering free shipping with no minimum purchase, though the retailers were not widely advertising the free shipping service. PwC noted that some retailers have been giving free shipping offers through emails to loyal customers or solely on select items.

Target jumped out early on Oct. 25 to begin offering free shipping through Jan. 1, regardless of order total. Competitor Wal-Mart didn’t follow suit, but continues to offer free shipping for orders above $50 and always gives a free option for in-store pickup. The retail giant has been offering free two-day shipping on more than 1,500 toys from Dec. 14 to Dec. 21. Wal-Mart said this week that in an effort to give shoppers more time it has extended online orders on a newly designated website for items that can picked up free in stores through 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

“We are making it easy for customers to find last-minute gifts in stores and online by ensuring we’re stocked with top items and offering Pickup through Dec. 24. December is also the biggest month for food and we are ready for grocery shoppers purchasing ingredients for all occasions — from everyday meals to Christmas dinner,” said Steve Bratspies, Walmart U.S. chief merchandising officer.

Walmart is able to extend the online shopping for in-store pick up through Dec. 23, because the orders are being largely fulfilled by stores. Walmart said shipping cut-off dates are Dec. 20 and Dec. 22 at noon for standard and rush shipping, respectively. Bratspies said all stores will close at 6 p.m. local time on Dec. 24, which is two hours earlier than last year.

Amazon’s cut-off date for free shipping is Friday, Dec. 16,  but standard shipping for delivery on Christmas Eve is available until Dec. 19, according to the e-tailer’s website. Amazon said Prime members, who pay an annual subscription fee for free two-day shipping services, can order as late as Dec. 22 this year.