Tis the season for shipping strategy
Holiday-season shipping policies have emerged as one of the big retail stories of the 2010 season. Here is a rundown of strategies — from free shipping, to free in-store-pickup — at a sampling of major home channel players.
The Home Depot
Homedepot.com is offering free shipping on more than 60,000 items ordered by Dec. 16. The big orange’s extended Cyber Monday sale has no minimum purchase to qualify for free shipping and includes free delivery and haul-away on most major appliances. Home Depot even includes a link to its new how-to community, with shipping deadlines to help customers get their purchases before Christmas.
Lowes.com is offering free shipping on orders $49 and more, up to 150 pounds (or 70 pounds for post-office box orders). Free shipping is limited to the contiguous United States, and must be $49 before taxes or fees are applied. The company is also advertising its “Buy online, pick up in stores” method, allowing customers to take advantage of online prices and sales with the convenience of in-store pickup. Customers who choose this method can pick their orders up within 20 minutes of ordering.
Amazon.com is hyping its typical Super Saving Shipping on orders over $25, but it’s taking it a step further, by offering a holiday shipping guide to help customers plan their holiday orders. For instance, customers who wish to take advantage of the Super Saving Shipping need to order by Dec. 17 to receive their orders in time for Christmas. Customers can use standard shipping up to Dec. 20, and can use the two-day shipping method up to 7 p.m. on Dec. 22. The site offers shipping methods for Dec. 23 and 24 as well, and even offers a solution for Christmas day shopping — an e-mail or printable Amazon gift card.
Ace Hardware, Do it Best, True Value
Generating store traffic is a goal for all three of the major co-ops. As such, all three sites, acehardware.com,doitbest.com and truevalue.com feature a free ship-to-store option. Designed to be convenient for the customer, the ship-to-store option provides retailers the chance to gain additional sales with additional accessories to customer orders, as well as impulse items.
Williams-sonoma.com is offering free shipping on more than 500 items until midnight Dec. 17. While mainly known for its selection of kitchen items, it is also a major player in housewares and small electronics. The free shipping sale includes more than 50 small kitchen appliances.
Sears.com is offering free shipping by category based on price point. For instance, tools, electronics, small appliances and lawn and garden orders qualify for free shipping once they total $99 or more, while apparel, accessories or beauty items ship free for orders of $49 or more. Shoes ship free with no minimum order. All three shipping methods are activated when customers type SANTA in the promotions box. Sears also offers free shipping on anything for 30 days if customers sign up for a 30-day free trial of shipvantage (normally $79 annually). And they can have their items shipped to their local store for free as well. All of these options end Dec. 17.
Menards.com is offering free shipping on select items, such as Levolor window treatments, area rugs, Bosch tankless water heaters, LaToscana faucets, and other select items throughout the website. Additionally, it is offering a free ship-to-store option on Mastercraft Doors. These deals expire Dec. 26.
NRF ups holiday spending forecast
The National Retail Federation (NRF) has revised its consumer spending forecast for the 2010 holiday season, raising it from a 2.3% increase over last year to a 3.3% growth rate.
The upward revision is due to improvement in a variety of economic indicators, the group said, including stock market gains, recent income growth and savings built up during the recession – all giving consumers the capacity to spend.
“The start to the holiday season has surpassed all expectations,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “While employment data is still a concern, we are starting to see improvement in other economic indicators that support an increase to our forecast.”
November retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department showed a 0.8% boost over October’s numbers, the NRF pointed out. Solid gains across the board indicate some pent up demand as consumers stocked up on items such as apparel, accessories and books and music.
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Lowe’s, HD make Top 10 list at CareerBliss.com
A list of the Top 10 “Happiest Holiday Retailers” for employees has included Home Depot and Lowe’s, the industry’s two largest home-improvement chains. CareerBliss.com, a Web site where workers review and comment on their employers, listed Costco in the #1 spot, with Lowe’s and Home Depot coming in 5th and 6th place, respectively.
Other retailers on the list were Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy and Best Buy.
CareerBliss.com based its rankings on one hundred thousand independent company reviews which evaluated employee happiness in the following categories: growth opportunity, compensation, benefits, work-life balance, career advancement, senior management, job security and whether the employee would recommend the company to others.
Compensation was not the overriding consideration in calculating the scores, according to CareerBliss.
“It’s true that Costco employees receive higher pay than those at other retailers, which contributes to their overall happiness,” said Rick Wainschel, VP at CareerBliss. “Those who work at Old Navy, however, are generally happier than those at Victoria’s Secret despite making an average of ten thousand dollars a year less. Our data indicates that factors such as benefits, career advancement, and work-life balance can often overcome monetary considerations, as is the case in this example.”
Bradley Brummel, a professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the University of Tulsa and a member of the CareerBliss advisory board. Said, “Research shows a direct correlation between happy employees and better customer service. Customer service is a key driver for consumer purchasing, and with the holidays around the corner, retailers need every sale they can get.”
CareerBliss describes itself as “an online career community designed to help people find bliss in the workplace [and] a venue for employers, job seekers, employees and recruiters.” The company claims to offer more than six million independent company reviews and salary comparisons.
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