Shipping deadlines depend on the retailer, but the window for free standard shipping is shrinking for many.

When it comes to shipping online orders in time for holiday delivery, online retailers offer a multitude of deadlines, often down to the product.

As December advances, and with Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday, some retailers are trying to ensure shoppers know how much time they have to receive their order in time for Dec. 25., No. 7 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, for example, features a delivery estimator on its product pages and offers a breakdown of its deadlines on its site. Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 10) also shows each product’s estimated arrival date on the product page and during checkout, and it has a page devoted to holiday order deadlines so shoppers can know what the cutoffs are for Hanukkah (Dec. 12-20), Christmas (Dec. 25) and Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1), plus shipping schedules for its My Best Buys loyalty program customers.

A key date for consumers who care about free shipping is almost here.


Friday (Dec. 15) is the 10th annual Free Shipping Day, an online sales promotion that is expected to have more than 1,000 online merchants participating. To be part of the official promotion—where a merchant’s name and logo appear on—merchants must offer free shipping with delivery before the holiday with no minimum purchase requirement. Some exclusions to this requirement are allowed, such as oversized products.

In 2016, more than 1,200 retailers participated, generating an estimated $967 million in online sales. Among retailers participating this year are Inc. (No. 59), Bath & Body Works (part of L Brands, No. 26), Eddie Bauer LLC (No. 98), Levi Strauss & Co. (No. 200), Tory Burch LLC (No. 123) and more.

A number of retailers are deviating from their usual shipping programs this holiday season and touting free shipping with no minimum threshold during the season:

  • Best Buy Co. is running such a deal Oct. 30-Dec. 25
  • Bloomingdale’s (owned by Macy’s Inc., No. 6) offers free shipping Nov. 2-Dec. 20. Its usual purchase minimum is $150.
  • The Children’s Place (No. 110) is running a promotion “for a limited time” and does not give dates.
  • HSN Inc. (part of QVC) offers free shipping on electronics.
  • Kay Jewelers (part of Signet Jewelers Ltd., No. 113) offered free shipping from Oct. 29-Dec. 10.

Target Corp. (No. 20), for the fourth holiday season in a row, offers free shipping on all online orders with no purchase minimum, though some restrictions apply because some items on may be tagged as “only ships with $25 orders.” The promotion started Nov. 1 and runs through Dec. 23. Target’s typical free shipping threshold is $35.


The retailer also says 95% of online orders this holiday season will be available for pickup in one of its stores within an hour of the order being placed. During Black Friday weekend, Target said it shipped twice as many online orders from 1,400 stores compared with the same period last year, though it did not disclose that volume.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (No. 3) this holiday season says it is making more online products available for same-day pickup in stores. Customers can shop items marked “Free Pickup Today” online until 4 p.m. local time Dec. 23, and they then have until 6 p.m. local time Dec. 24 to pick up their order. The retailer says demand for Pickup Today orders doubles during the two weeks before Christmas.

Amazon, in a push to win more procrastinators, will offer last-minute delivery of pottery, necklaces, candles and other handmade products ordered as late as Christmas Eve in nine U.S. cities. The online retailer will offer Amazon Handmade products through its two-hour delivery service Prime Now, which typically features household items found in drugstores. The fast delivery service for Handmade is available in Austin, Minneapolis, New York City, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle, Amazon’s hometown.

Amazon outlines delivery deadlines for Dec. 24 delivery for Prime customers as follows: Dec. 22 for two-day shipping, Dec. 23 for one-day shipping and it will deliver same-day orders on Christmas Eve if the order is placed by 9:30 a.m. local time. Non-Prime members can receive free shipping on standard orders over $25 if the order is placed by Dec. 15. Amazon also lists its other deadlines and notes “There’s still time. Free delivery by 12/24” at the top right corner of its home page.

A number of retailers inform customers on their site that Dec. 21 (a Thursday) is the cutoff for expedited delivery by Christmas Eve, including:

  • Gap Inc. (No. 24) brands Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy
  • Ann Taylor (parent Ascena Retail Group is No. 77)
  • The North Face (owned by VF Corp., No. 91)
  • Online jeweler (owned by Signet)
  • Walgreens Co. (No. 39)
  • REI (No. 74)
  • Belk Inc. (No. 89)

Blue Nile Inc. (No. 96), Urban Outfitters Inc. (No. 40) and Wayfair Inc. (No. 16) give customers until Dec. 22 (a Friday), and these orders carry various fees for rush shipping.


When shoppers consider a new purchase, they spend an average of 13 days shopping for the item, and after they decide to buy, almost half expect it the same day or the next day, according to data released Thursday by from search giant Google. Mobile searches related to “same day shipping” have grown 120% since 2015, Google finds.

Online conversions from the week before December’s shipping cutoff date (typically Dec. 21 ) are on par with the week of Cyber Monday, as holiday shoppers make a last-ditch effort to get their presents sent to their doorstep, according to Google. After Dec. 21, shoppers increasingly turn to their hometown stores to get what they need, according to Google, which bases its findings on anonymous store traffic from a sample of U.S. users that have enabled location history on their mobile devices.

UPS Inc., shipping carrier to 421 retailers in the Top 1000, expects peak volume for the holiday season of Nov. 24-Dec. 31 to hit a record 750 million packages, up more than 5% from the 712 million delivered during the 2016 season. Of the 21 holiday season delivery days (business days Monday-Friday from Nov. 24-Dec. 22) before Christmas, 17 are expected to generate volume of more than 30 million packages per day. The average daily volume for UPS is 19 million packages.


FedEx Corp., shipping carrier for 318 retailers in the Top 1000, also expects record parcel volume this peak season, though it did not make a projection.

The U.S. Postal Service says it expects to deliver nearly 850 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. USPS also is expanding its Sunday delivery operations in some high package volume locations during the season. “More than 6 million packages are expected to be delivered each Sunday in December. Mail carriers will also deliver Priority Mail Express packages on Christmas Day for an additional fee in select locations, according to the carrier.