December 18, 2009, 12:00 AM

With Christmas a week away, online retailers highlight expedited delivery

72 of the top 100 e-retailers offered free shipping this week. During the week several retailers’ home pages emphasized expedited shipping offers to ensure gifts arrive by the day before Christmas, according to a survey by Internet Retailer.

Though one fewer of the top 100 online retailers offered free shipping this week than last, several retailers’ home pages put an increased emphasis on free expedited shipping offers that would ensure gifts arrive by the day before Christmas, according to a survey by Internet Retailer.

72 of the top 100 online retailers offered free shipping this week, down from 73 the week before, according to the survey, which was based on reviews of offers presented on the web sites of the top 100 online retailers as listed in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide 2009 Edition, which ranks retailers by 2008 web sales. In the comparable week a year ago, 66 offered free shipping.

In addition, 74 retailers in the top 100 also presented major promotional displays on their home pages-many highlighting last-minute gift ideas-and a number of retailers 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 most generous came from apparel retailer Coldwater Creek, which sent an e-mail offering 30% off anything on the site.

Retailers offering free shipping in time for delivery on Christmas Eve, included Blue Nile, American Eagle Outfitters, Nike and Kohl’s. Several other online retailers who didn’t promote free shipping offered free upgrades to second-day delivery to customers who paid for standard ground shipping.

 

Eight sites became more generous in their free shipping offering this week. Ralph Lauren, which last week had a $195 minimum, offered free shipping on all items. Urban Outfitters lowered its minimum order to qualify to $76, from $151 last week, and PC Connection dropped its minimum order to qualify to $49, down from $99 the week before.

 

Several sites featured prominent displays emphasizing delivery by the day before Christmas. Dell’s central home page image declared, “Our most popular systems delivered in 48 hours!” Eddie Bauer’s site assured shoppers, “We’ll get it there by Christmas. Guaranteed.” And Costco’s home page featured a prominent link for shoppers to find items eligible for pre-Christmas delivery.

Retailers continued to loosely use the term Black Friday, the term for the Friday after Thanksgiving. Office Depot’s home page featured a special offer on a Garmin navigation device, as it continued its weekly “Every Friday is Black Friday” promotion. CircuitCity.com featured a sale on a number of items today, which it called the Final Black Friday.

At least 41 retailers sent offers to shoppers who had opted in for marketing e-mails. Of those, several retailers sent e-mails offering significant site-wide discounts. Both Art.com and Vistaprint offered 25% off everything on their sites, and Urban Outfitters sent shoppers a one-day coupon that offered 20% off.

Several other retailers’ e-mails offered coupons. Office Depot offered shoppers $10 off a purchase of $50 or more, Office Max offered $30 off a $200 purchase and Sears offered $10 off a $75 purchase.

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