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Will Free Shipping Day Be the Retail Sector's Late, Great Hope?

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The holiday season is traditionally the time of sunshine when retailers make as much hay as they possibly can. This year, though, retail sales have turned out to be sluggish, rising only a mere 0.2% compared to the 0.6% that analysts had expected growth to be.
But even if Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday couldn’t lift the retail sector out of the doldrums, online businesses are hoping tomorrow’s Free Shipping Day will.
This retail event is now in its fourth year, and its creator, Luke Knowles, told the LA Times that it is a more sales-stimulating occasion than Black Friday.

Knowles says on the Free Shipping Day website that 90% of consumers spend more when they are offered free delivery while nearly half abandon their digital shopping cart when it comes with high shipping fees.

Retailers pulled in $942 million on Free Shipping Day last year, 61% more than the year before, according to ComScore. Black Friday sales increased 9% year over year to $648 million in 2010 while Cyber Monday saw a 16% bump to more than $1 billion.

Over 2,000 merchants, including JCPenny (JCP), Best Buy (BBY), Kohl’s (KSS), and Apple (AAPL) -- as well as Dow Jones (^DJI) components Microsoft (MSFT), Disney (DIS) and HP (HP) -- have signed up for this event, which promises to deliver, free of charge, any item you purchase online on Friday by Christmas Eve at the latest, just in time for your Christmas morning gift-unwrapping session. And it’s not just free shipping either. The Free Shipping Day website promises to unveil special offers from participating merchants on Friday at the stroke of midnight.

While participating merchants hope that the offer of free shipping will entice those of you at home or work to be more indiscriminate with your credit card spending, do be sure to be discriminate in your selection of appropriate gifts, for hell hath no fury than the wrath of children who have received crappy Christmas presents, as seen in this Jimmy Kimmel clip.

(See also: Lousy November Retail Sales Numbers Prove Black Friday Headlines Were a Joke & Don't Be Fooled by These 3 Retail Sales Tricks)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.