December 4, 2009, 12:00 AM

E-retailers offer plenty of holiday deals, but pull back on free shipping

Among the top 100 online retailers, 68 offered free shipping offers for the week of Monday, Nov. 30, a slight drop from 71 the prior week, according to a survey by Internet Retailer. In the comparable week a year ago, 66 offered free shipping.

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

Among the top 100 online retailers, 68 offered free shipping offers for the week of Monday, Nov. 30, a slight drop from 71 the prior week, according to a survey by Internet Retailer. In the comparable week a year ago, 66 offered free shipping.

In addition, 62 retailers in the top 100 also presented major promotional displays on their home pages-many with discounts of up 50%-and more than 40 followed up with special e-mail offers to shoppers who had signed up for e-mail promotions. Among the e-mail promotions, one of the more unusual was from Charming Shoppes’ LaneBryant.com, which started a “12 Days of Christmas” e-mail series on Monday, with a new promotion each day. Today, Lane Bryant e-mailed a deal on Seven7 fashions with the message: “On My 5th Day of Shopping Lane Bryant Offered Me: Buy 1 Get 1 50% off All Seven 7.”

The survey, which is being conducted weekly by Internet Retailer’s editorial staff throughout the holiday season, covers the largest 100 online retailers as listed in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Five retailers introduced free shipping offers for the week, including QVC and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Meanwhile, Apple dropped its $50 minimum order to qualify for free shopping, allowing free shipping on all items.

Among the retailers that changed their free-shipping offers, several restricted the benefit. For instance, Urban Outfitters Inc. increased its minimum order to qualify for free shipping to $150 from $75 the prior week, and The Home Depot, which the prior week offered free shipping on most orders of $49 or more, limited its free shipping offerings to Christmas decorations, laminate flooring, fireplaces and portable heaters and appliances.

Best Buy, which had been limiting its free shipping offer to a single select item each week, introduced 99-cent shipping on all items this week, featuring the offer in the central image on its home page.

Among home-page offers, Oriental Trading Co. offered the steepest discount, at up to 75%, while Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, the Disney Store, American Eagle Outfitters and Drugstore.com each offered promotions of up to 50% off.

Overstock.com introduced a 25 deals in 25 days promotion and discounts up to 76%. PC Mall and Foot Locker promoted discounts of up to 25%, and Army & Air Force Exchange offered discounts of up to 20% on jewelry and up to 45% on many other items.

Bass Pro Shops offered what was probably the most unusual home-page promotion: anyone who buys $250 worth of gift cards gets $1,000 off the purchase of a boat.

Charming Shoppes’ Lane Bryant, FashionBug and Catherines each offered discounts of up to 50% on the second items purchased. Costco offered two dozen online-only specials.

Among e-mail offers, Walmart.com offered Cyber Week deals and special promotions to customers who left something behind in a shopping cart.

Ralph Lauren and its sister brand Rugby e-mailed 25% discounts good for both online and store purchases.

Fingerhut e-mailed a look ahead at daily offers, with a calendar image that let recipients click each day to view offers including a free memory card with the purchase of a digital camera and two free pillows with the purchase of a bed-and-bath item valued at $75 or more.

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