Walmart kicks off free shipping for holidays
November 11, 2010,
Bentonville, Ark. - The pace-setter has thrown down the gauntlet for holiday ecommerce. Walmart U.S. announced it will offer free shipping on nearly 60,000 holiday items at walmart.com - and is waving minimum purchase requirements.
The offer is good through Dec. 20. Delivery takes place three to five days after ordering. Return shipping is also free.
Walmart is not the first retailer to offer free shipping - but it is the biggest. Target and J.C. Penney initiated free shipping programs with some strings attached and other retailers have introduced variations on the theme this year. A few, such as L.L. Bean, are offering no-cost freight regardless of order size or shopping frequency. But the Walmart.com program is all encompassing and includes no small print.
All of these stores, of course, are following the big online dog, Amazon and its unlimited-for-an-annual-rate shipping program called Amazon Prime which has proved to be successful.
Each year for the past several holiday seasons free shipping has been a factor in retail marketing efforts, but Walmart's announcement is the largest, most widespread program in the marketplace.
Come Dec. 26 it will remain to be seen whether such programs end or become fundamental elements of online strategies.
In a New York Times article on the Walmart news last Thursday, an L.L. Bean spokesperson put the entire matter in perspective. "We'd love to be able to offer free shipping, but free shipping isn't free. It does cost a company money."
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