December 15, 2011, 10:08 AM

Procrastinating holiday shoppers will head online

With shopping left undone, e-retailers offer last-minute shipping promotions. 

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The average consumer had completed less than half (46.5%) of his holiday gift buying as of the second week in December, according to the results of a consumer survey from the National Retail Federation trade group. 92.4% of consumers still had at least some of their shopping to complete and nearly half (45.5%) of those consumers say they intend to complete some of their purchases online, the leading sales channel consumers cited for where they’d do their last-minute holiday shopping.

That is up from 37.6% of consumers who said they intend to make last-minute online gift purchases at the same time last year. Department stores—last year’s No. 1 answer—came in second place in this year’s survey, with 44.0% of consumers saying they’d pick up last-minute gift items at a department store.

With all those retail dollars yet unspent, the National Retail Federation trade group today revised its holiday retail sales estimate. When the season is finished, the NRF says it expects total holiday retail sales will top $469.1 billion, up 3.8% from last year. An estimate NRF released in October projected sales would increase 2.8% from last year. It did not estimate how much of that total would be spent online.

Retailers this week spent time promoting their extended shipping deadlines designed to accommodate these last-minute shoppers. Home goods e-retailer Hayneedle.com, for example, announced this week that it will push its latest order deadline for Christmas delivery to 4 p.m. Central time on Dec. 23, the last Friday before Christmas. Product listings that are eligible for last-minute shipping now feature a “get it by Christmas” gift tag on Hayneedle.com.

Sears.com says its latest order deadline for Christmas delivery is 4 p.m. Central time on Dec. 21. The department store retailer’s latest deadline to get free shipping on orders of $99 or more is Dec. 19. Department store chain Macys.com says it will offer free shipping on orders of $99 or more for Christmas delivery until 11 p.m. Central on Dec. 21, and accept orders for paid shipping forms guaranteed for Christmas delivery until 5 p.m. Central on Dec. 22. Electronics retailer Best Buy says it will offer free shipping with delivery in time Christmas on orders placed until 10 a.m. Central Dec. 20. Consumers who really leave it to the last minute can buy online as late as 3 p.m. in their local time zone on Christmas Eve,  then pick up those orders in a Best Buy store. Toys ‘R’ Us says its online order deadline for in-store pickup is 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Hayneedle is No. 77 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, Sears is No. 7, Macy’s is No. 17, Best Buy is No. 11 and Toys ‘R’ Us is No. 29.

87% of standard shipping offers from online retailers will expire on or before next Tuesday, Dec. 20, according to a survey from Shop.org, the e-commerce arm of the National Retail Federation.

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