Clock is ticking for holiday shoppers | VailDaily.com
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Clock is ticking for holiday shoppers

Keiko Morris
Vail, CO Colorado

For Christmas shoppers who are determined to buy online and avoid the crowds but who are inveterate procrastinators, time is running out.

Online retailers have been trying to accommodate the tardy holiday consumer and have refined their shipping processes since last year, retail experts said. But Wednesday and Thursday are when most can guarantee expedited shipping.

“Every year you see advances with online retail,” said Helen Malani, chief shopping expert with http://www.Shopzilla.com, an online comparison-shopping site. “The reason why they push the date out is obviously because they can make more money, but they also engender loyalty from customers.”

Last year, most ended their standard shipping for Christmas on the 15th and 16th, Malani said. This year, however, many pushed their standard shipping deadlines until Monday and Tuesday.

Pottery Barn, Tiffany’s, West Elm and Williams-Sonoma are among the 6 percent of online retailers offering standard shipping for Christmas until Wednesday, she said. At Wal-Mart, Wednesday is the last day customers can get express one-day shipping.

Procrastinators should check the specific times for Christmas delivery deadlines, Malani added, because they often are not extended throughout the day.

Despite the flurry of online shopping Thanksgiving week and weekend, last-minute holiday consumers will find they have lots of company.

Some 33 million shoppers said they hadn’t started their holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation’s Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey conducted by BIGresearch between Dec. 5 and Dec. 13.

Twenty-one percent of consumers had reported completing their holiday shopping as of Sunday compared with 26 percent last year, according to a survey by International Council of Shopping Centers Inc. and UBS Securities Llc.

Among some of the reasons cited for their delay were: the option of gift cards, which can be purchased, in many cases, on Christmas Day; the perception that there is more time to shop with a full weekend preceding Christmas; and simple lack of time.

Retail experts have noted that a handful of stores, including JC Penney and Victoria’s Secret, have extended their next-day shipping until Friday.

Online shopping will heat up Wednesday and Thursday, retail experts said, and, despite the anxiety that usually accompanies delaying Christmas shopping, procrastinators might score a few good deals.

“Over the last couple of weeks, retail shopping hasn’t met expectations, so it’s going to be interesting to see how aggressive they get in the next few days,” said Dan de Grandpre, chief executive and founder of http://www.dealnewscom, an Internet guide to online bargains. “Discounts over the next couple of days should get dramatic, and it might be that anyone who decided to procrastinate might have really won, as long as they aren’t looking for TMX Elmo.”

Aside from electronic gift cards, retail experts noted that many of the larger retailers, like Sears, are offering in-store pickup for online orders. If customers have to wait more than five minutes to pick up their item in the store, Sears will give them a $5 coupon.

“We have been very sensitive during this season to people who are in a great hurry to have what they are buying now and they don’t have time to ship,” said Gail Lavielle, vice president of public relations for Sears Holdings Corp. ” … at this time of the year, it’s accelerated, and everyone is pushed for time during the holidays.”

This story originally appeared in Newsday.


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