February 13, 2012, 11:09 AM

Online retailers court last-minute Valentines

E-retailers offer free overnight shipping on gifts and flowers.

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About one-fifth (22%) of consumers will let the clock run down to the 48 hours ahead of Valentine’s Day to buy a card or special gift for their sweetie, according to a recent survey, and online retailers aren’t giving up those sales to stores. Several online jewelry and gift retailers are waiving overnight shipping charges so that orders placed as late as 6 p.m. Central today arrive in time to celebrate the holiday.

 Jewelry e-retailer BlueNile.com, No. 60 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, set the latest shipping deadline (6 p.m.) seen in a check of gift-oriented e-retail sites by Internet Retailer staff this morning. The e-retailer is offering free FedEx Priority Overnight shipping on all online orders. Meanwhile, jewelry e-retailer Ice.com (No. 242) is offering free FedEx Standard Overnight shipping on all orders of $195 or more placed by 12:30 p.m. today. Chocolate manufacturer Godiva is waiving overnight shipping surcharges for orders placed on Godiva.com by noon today of $75 or more, but standard shipping charges still apply. Godiva Chocolatier Inc. is No. 533 in Internet Retailer’s Second 500 Guide.

19% of Valentine’s Day gift shoppers say they will purchase candy for the holiday and 9% say they’ll buy jewelry, according to an online survey of 793 shoppers conducted by PriceGrabber, a comparison shopping engine. More than a third of survey respondents (34%) say they will shop for Valentine’s Day gifts online.

Tiffany Sellwood, director of online marketing at FlowerShop.com says she expects the majority of Valentine’s Day sales will happen today for the e-retailer, which sells flowers, plants and gift baskets. FlowerShop.com is No. 970 in the Second 500 Guide. FlowerShop.com accepts orders for flowers for same-day delivery by local florists. Sellwood says traffic and transactions levels were comparable to last year through late last week, but that average order value was $91, up 7% from $85 a year ago. “People are finally opening their wallets again,” she says.

Jewelry e-retailer GemAffair.com (No. 695) says the average order value for Valentine’s Day gifts is up 17% from last year and the number of transactions is up 8% year over year. However, GemAffair.com focused on capturing early Valentine’s Day shoppers as its shipping deadline for delivery by Valentine’s Day expired last week. 43% of respondents in the PriceGrabber survey said they would shop a week ahead of the holiday for gifts. 24% said they’d shop two weeks ahead of Valentine’s Day and 11% said they’d get their shopping done three weeks ahead of Feb. 14.

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