October 26, 2010, 3:40 PM

Scaring up last-minute Halloween sales with shipping offers

An Internet Retailer survey finds free shipping offers are fairly common this Halloween.

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With fewer than five days until Halloween, online retailers are hyping shipping promotions to capture last-minute shoppers. Sites, such as CostumeCraze.com, No. 500 in the Top 500 Guide, are discounting goods up to 90% and promoting sale prices on their home pages next to  shipping offers that will still get items delivered by Halloween.

SpiritHalloween.com puts urgency into a home-page promotion, tagged with “The End is Near” on a tombstone next to a zombie, noting that shoppers can place Halloween orders only until 3 p.m. on Oct. 26 to ship via FedEx’s second-day air service.

Flowers may not be frightening, but that hasn’t stopped 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. from joining retailers offering special shipping deals to scare up Halloween sales. The online floral and gifts retailer e-mailed a pitch to customers on Monday, Oct. 25, for a free upgrade from standard to two-day shipping. But the deal, it warned, dies at noon on Wednesday.

BuyCostumes.com offered free priority shipping for purchases of $90 or more made on Tuesday, Oct. 26, for delivery on Friday, Oct. 29. The site also offered discounts of up to 90% for costumes for adults, kids and dogs. Think the canine costume concept is crazy? “Dog Halloween costumes” beat out online searches for costumes for babies and toddlers this year, according to search analytics provider Searchmetrics.  

Some merchants gave an extra push to shipping in e-mail and social media promotions. HalloweenExpress.com, in an e-mail sent to customers early on Monday, Oct. 25, showed a list of shipping deals including free standard shipping on orders of $65+, free two-day shipping on orders of $89+, and discounted prices on shipping upgrades. Meanwhile, BlairCandy.com displayed on its Facebook page a U.S. map that visitors could click to view UPS shipping schedules so they could plan shipments in time for Halloween.  

An Internet Retailer survey this month of 25 online retailers of candy, costumes and other Halloween merchandise found them evenly divided among free-shipping offers: 12 offered them, 12 did not, and one, Walmart.com, offered free shipping to stores. All of the free-shipping offers required minimum purchases, with most ranging from $39 (Kmart.com) to $75 (AnniesCostumes.com). The highest minimum purchase requirement, at $100, was from FrightCatalog.com.

The 25 retailers in the survey included merchants that specialize in costumes, including BuyCostumes.com (free shipping on orders of $65+) and CostumesSupercenter.com (free shipping on orders of $70+); merchants that sell mostly candy, including CandyCrate.com and BlairCandy.com (neither offers free shipping) and JellyBelly.com (free shipping on orders of $50+); and mass merchants including Target.com (free shipping on 500,000 items for orders of $50+).

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