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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.

Lowe’s

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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