Region's Internet retailers to join in Free Shipping Day
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are history, but Friday will bring one more, increasingly popular discount-themed shopping day.
Tomorrow is Free Shipping Day -- when Country Cupboard Cookies of Plum, for example, along with much bigger retailers including Best Buy, Kohl's, and Toys R Us, will drop shipping fees for items ordered online. They pledge delivery by Christmas Eve.
Judy Wittig said she anticipates a 25 percent bump in sales from her family's Country Cupboard Cookies' website, based on results from the company's own, prior free-shipping days. She also looks forward to "getting new customers, people who have never ordered from us before."
Luke Knowles, founder of online retail site www.FreeShipping.org , started Free Shipping Day in 2008. The goal was to enlist thousands of retailers to waive delivery costs for consumers who, by mid-December, become concerned that any merchandise they order might not make it to desired destinations by Dec. 24.
Last year, online sales on Free Shipping Day totaled $942 million, beating Internet orders on Black Friday and approaching Cyber Monday's total. About 1,750 retailers participated, double the total from the year before.
By midday Wednesday, 2,154 merchants had signed up for free, including many small businesses that are happy to place their logos on the same webpage alongside large, nationwide merchants, said Kendal Perez, spokeswoman for the campaign, run from FreeShipping.org's headquarters in Fort Collins, Colo.
Free Shipping Day always is on a weekday, when more people are in front of computers, she said. The day falls about a week before Christmas, when most merchants still can get packages to customers in time through standard delivery.
Internet shopping continues to soar. So far this holiday season, $24.6 billion has been spent online, a 15 percent increase from last year, said digital market research firm comScore this week.
Details of Friday's offers will be on the FreeShippingDay.com website. The company sells ads and collects a portion of sales from some retailers whose customers find merchandise through the site. Free Shipping Day organizers also encourage merchants to put a "badge" promoting the day on their websites, Perez said.
Terms of the deals vary, and some sellers will add discounts on products tomorrow to further entice shoppers.
"We encourage merchants to make their offers as broad as possible," Perez said.
Eat'n Park Hospitality Group's SmileyCookie.com took part in last year's Free Shipping Day and will waive its fee again on Friday.
"It's become much bigger this year than last year," said Adam Golomb, director of electronic commerce for the Homestead-based restaurant and food service company.
Eat'n Park typically charges $7.99 for standard, FedEx Ground shipping; a box of a dozen fresh-baked, hand-decorated Smiley cookies starts at $13.99.
"When we ask customers (online) why they didn't finish their orders, shipping is the No. 1 reason," Golomb said, adding that the company runs other free shipping deals.
Online holiday sales of the cookies, baked in Robinson, are double last year's, he said, probably because of more Internet purchases overall, as well as new Smiley products and wider marketing. About 20 percent of orders go to Pennsylvania addresses.
Retailers' standard shipping deadlines for Christmas delivery will expire by Tuesday, a Shop.org survey found, but 5.3 percent say they will continue offering expedited delivery as late as Dec. 23.
Wittig started a wholesale cookie business with her husband, Dan, in 1988, when she was a nurse at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. They delivered to more than a dozen hospital gift shops for years but gradually shifted to online sales starting in 2002.
The Wittigs now run the company with daughters Kim, a baker, and Lori, who handles marketing and the website from Dallas, where she lives. They have five employees. Country Cupboard ships out about 3,500 chocolate chip, decorated and other cookies a day in the weeks before the holidays.
"We use every marketing tool that we can," said Judy Wittig, adding that 30 to 40 percent of the year's business is done in the three weeks before Christmas.
At McKeesport Candy Co.'s CandyFavorites.com, orders of candy canes, Brach's treats and other brands totaling $49.95 or more get free shipping. After Friday, however, the threshold for free delivery will be higher, said Jon H. Prince, president and owner of the company that his grandfather started in 1927.
This year is the company's first participation in Free Shipping Day. Prince said his company was the first online candy store to offer free shipping and that it's among the top five Internet candy sellers worldwide.Additional Information:
Pay no shipping
These Internet retailers based in Western Pennsylvania are taking part in Free Shipping Day on Friday. They can be reached through the www.freeshippingday.com website, where all shipping deals and codes will be posted. Some also post deals directly on their own sites:
• CandyFavorites, run by McKeesport Candy Co., www.candyfavorites.com .
• Country Cupboard Cookies of Plum, www.countrycupboardcookies.com .
• Pittsburgh Three Rivers Finds of the North Side, collectibles, www.threeriversfinds.com .
• Savvy Chic Bags of Stanton Heights, fashion and sports-themed handbags, www.scbags.com .
• SmileyCookie.com, Homestead-based Eat'n Park's cookie order site, www.smileycookie.com .
• FishUSA.com, Erie tackle shop, www.fishusa.com .
Also, major retail chains American Eagle Outfitters Inc. of the South Side and Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. of Findlay are involved. Pitt Panthers Clothes at www.footballfanatics.com also signed on; Football Fanatics is based in Jacksonville, Fla.
Source: Free Shipping Day
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