Nothing deflates the spirit of holiday giving as quickly as a special present that doesn’t show up on time. And odds are, this season, which is predicted to be part of the biggest online shopping year yet, deliveries will disappoint those who don’t order early.
Adding to delays: Gift givers are shipping more online items, big and small, directly to recipients, rather than bringing them in person due to social distancing and limits on traveling to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic has also been creating packing delays at warehouses where workers are adhering to safety measures while also trying to handle the surge of online orders that started when stay-at-home orders were issued in March.
How big is the online surge? E-retailing researchers at Digital Commerce 360 project U.S. consumers will spend a record $38.21 billion online between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, a 35% jump from last year.
Less time will be spent browsing in stores this season as more time is used scrolling through retailers’ websites. But stores will still play a role.
Chain retailers boosted their curbside pick up service when stores temporarily closed at the start of stay-home orders, and they continue to try to match Amazon’s generous, same-day or two-day shipping policies.
Some shoppers order directly from stores in the recipient’s hometown so they can pick up gifts themselves instead of relying on overburdened delivery services.
A holiday shopping and shipping survey by Voxware found most respondents (77 percent) plan to have gifts sent to loved ones, although 13 percent said half of the items they purchased online have arrived later than the promised delivery date.
What are shoppers’ options?
Generally, online retailers offer consumers fast and slow choices.
Standard shipping within the U.S. might take three to five days. The cost is $7 at the Gap, unless you spend a minimum of $50, then shipping is free and can take up to seven business days.
In trying to reach the free-shipping threshold, shoppers can’t count the cost of shipping and handling, taxes, gift cards or gift wrap.
Standard shipping to Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. Territories can stretch to 11 business days. Expedited and priority shipping are offered by many retailers for an extra charge, but only for addresses in the continental U.S.
On the flip side, eco-conscious retailers have cut down on packaging and shipping waste by slowing down deliveries and sending all items in one box rather than in multiple boxes.
Shoppers typically receive a perk for being patient, but about a third of online shoppers are willing to pay more for sustainable shipping and packaging, according to a survey conducted in August by Digital Commerce 360 and Digital Bizrate Insights.
The busiest online shopping season ever means you need to order early, ship smartly and expect delays, say experts.
“Give your delivery professionals a little extra time to do their jobs safely,” suggests shipping experts at Coyuchi, which offers organic cotton bedding, towels and sleepwear. “UPS has suspended the UPS Service Guarantee for all shipments, so please allow three to four extra business days for order processing and delivery.”
To receive a package by Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, general deadlines within the U.S. are:
Here are retailers’ standard shipping policies and tips:
Amazon: Delivery is free on millions of items and Prime members ($119 a year) can be eligible for same or one-day delivery with no minimum purchase, shipped from local fulfillment centers. Packages delayed by three days might be eligible for a refund.
Banana Republic has Cyber Monday sales of up to 75% off plus an extra 10% off with the code BRCYBER and free shipping (no code needed). The clothing and accessories retailer offers free curbside and in-store pick up. Throughout the year, there is free shipping on orders more than $50.
Best Buy is having Cyber Flash Sales and the consumer electronics retailer offers free curbside pick up at its stores as well as UPS stores, CVS pharmacies, Michaels arts and crafts stores, Advance Auto Parts and local independent stores.
Best Buy sometimes offers free shipping for specific shipping options in select categories or free shipping sitewide. There is same-day delivery in some areas. Shipping costs are based on the item, weight and delivery option selected.
Costco.com, which is having holiday sales, includes standard shipping on most items sent via UPS, FedEx or USPS. There is a shipping and handling fee for express shipping, with options explained at checkout. Extra services include setting up furniture and appliances inside your home.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, which has Cyber Sales with up to half off, offers free store pick up (as fast as one hour in some cases) and free standard shipping on orders of $49 or more, except for oversized and overweight items.
Disney warns parents to order from shopdisney.com soon. During Cyber Monday sales, use the code CYBER to receive up to 25% off and free shipping on orders of $75 or more.
Gap clothing and accessories retailer, which is having a half-off Cyber Monday sale, is offering an extra 10% off and free shipping with the code GAPCYBER. In the past, the retailer has run a gift card sweepstakes during the Thanksgiving weekend where shoppers electing slower shipping had a chance to win a $200 gift card.
Lululemon athletic apparel company, which is having an extended Black Friday sale, promises delivery in eights business days or it’s free.
Macy’s credit card holders receive free standard shipping with no minimum purchase, to one address, except for furniture, mattresses or prior purchases. Through Nov. 30, all shoppers will receive free shipping to an address in the contiguous U.S. with a $25 purchase.
Nordstrom is offering a $15 promo card for online orders picked up at a store through Nov. 30. Free gift wrapping is included with online orders picked up the next day. Standard shipping for almost everything on Nordstrom.com is free to an address in the United States — even Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico — with most in-stock items arriving in three to six business days.
Target, like many other large chain retailers, has free pick up of online orders at it stores. Target REDcard Mastercard holders are offered free shipping on thousands of items with an order of $35 or more. Some items have extended delivery dates due to high demand.
Victoria’s Secret is offering free standard shipping on orders of $50 or more for holiday shopping. If you upgrade to express shipping, you only pay the upgrade cost. Returns on all orders are also free for a limited time.
Walmart offers free pick up of online orders inside or outside of its stores to compete with Amazon’s same-day delivery. Walmart+ subscription service, which offers free shipping and other perks, is $98 a year.
Wayfair is offering free shipping during its extended Cyber Monday Sale of up to 70% off decor, kitchen, appliances and furniture.
Stay tuned for more shipping tips.
— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072