December 20, 2013, 2:37 PM

Shoppers want to spend on gifts, not shipping

Consumers flock to FreeShipping.com to snap up deals for no-cost shipping this week. Meanwhile, Amazon is running out of some of its goodies and consumers across the border in Canada continue to shop online in droves as the holiday season progresses.

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After Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Green Monday comes the final holiday shopping day of the season with its own moniker: Free Shipping Day. That day occurred Wednesday and data from FreeShipping.com shows consumers embraced free shipping deals at Walmart.com, Kohls.com and Target.com the most.

The site says more than 1 million consumers signed up with their first name and e-mail to gain access to free shipping offers from retailers including Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s Inc. and Best Buy Co.  FreeShipping.com says 25% more visitors logged into the site on Free Shipping day this year than last year. That’s more than the 8.3% growth in site visits FreeShipping.com posted on the holiday last year.

Walmart.com, Kohls.com, and Target.com experienced the highest volume of clicks and purchases from FreeShipping.com members. Target had nearly a 50% increase in purchases from FreeShipping.com members compared to the previous 17 days of the month. 16% of FreeShipping.com members who visited the site before the holiday in December returned to browse and shop on Free Shipping Day. And apparently it’s the women of households who are clamoring to finish up their online gift buying, as 63% of all visitors to FreeShipping.comwere female. 

Amazon.com, meanwhile has been heavily promoting its Prime Membership, which offers free, two-day shipping for 22 million items sold on Amazon.com for $79 per year. Members of Amazon Prime who live in the contiguous United States have until midnight Eastern time on Sunday, Dec. 22, to order their goodies in time for Christmas.

True Prime procrastinators can still shop Amazon for select items as late as Dec. 23, though, and pay an extra $2.99 minimum fee per item to have the items delivered by Dec. 25. Amazon also offers “local express delivery” on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, for $3.99 per item. Local express delivery is available in Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Indianapolis; New York City; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Seattle; the San Bernardino, CA, area; Washington, D.C.; and in parts of New Jersey.

Despite an array of items eligible for Prime shipping on Amazon.com, recent analysis from Colin Sebastian, an analyst for investment firm Robert W. Baird & Co., finds there is plenty of room for Prime to expand to add more products. A fourth quarter inventory survey conducted by the firm finds that only 11% of all physical items on Amazon.com are eligible for Prime shipping—including 25% of media products, such as books and music CDs, and just 6% of non-media products. Baird research estimates there are at least 15 million paying Amazon Prime members, and such shoppers typically order three to four times more products than non-members, with a natural inclination toward buying Prime-eligible products.

“We see further Prime product availability as creating a virtuous cycle of increasing subscriptions, further category penetration and greater unit sales velocity,” Sebastian writes in his analysis. Amazon does not disclose the number of Prime members.
The survey also finds that, despite the later start to holiday shopping this year, many items are now out of stock on Amazon.com, particularly products in the home and kitchen, electronics, home improvement, appliances and health categories. Sebastian says this suggests a strong end to the holiday shopping season.

Other just-released holiday shopping data suggests it isn’t just U.S. shoppers hitting sites like Amazon to finish up their gift buying. Canada Post Corp., Canada’s national mail and courier service, says it is on track to deliver a record 27 million parcels this holiday season. It also is reporting a 20% increase in domestic parcel volumes from the third week of November through mid-December compared to the same time last year. Canada Post delivers packages to 6,400 postal outlets across the country that consumers visit to pick up their packages.

"We've seen firsthand the incredible role that online shopping is playing this holiday season," says Doug Jones, senior vice president of delivery and customer experience at Canada Post. "It is a good-news challenge we have this year, with Canadians entrusting us with their own increase in parcel deliveries and shopping experiences, but we also need them to pick up their items as quickly as possible at their local postal outlet."

Jones adds that Canada Post has been delivering packages on weekends since Nov. 16 and, since then, it’s delivered more than 700,000 parcels on Saturdays and Sundays. This past Monday, Canada Post set a record for daily parcel delivery by delivering 1.25 million packages.

Amazon.com is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Walmart.com is No.4, Kohls.com is No.26 and Target.com is No.18.

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