retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Associated Press reports that while it looks like a "record number of Americans" have been ordering holiday presents online, responding to a flood of "extra discounts, free shipping and easy returns" offered by e-tailers, there may be a glitch in the form of Mother Nature. The AP notes that "a storm bringing heavy winds and snow to much of the Midwest on Thursday — the heaviest shipping day of the year — could mean that some packages might not make it under the tree in time for Christmas. That's a headache for retailers, shippers and customers alike who already were experiencing problems because of the surge in shipping this year."

So far, so good, the story says, with no significant weather-related delays reported, and the major shipping companies are said to be fully prepared. But the "storm's timing couldn't be worse," and so there are a lot of retailers, shipping companies and consumers holding their breath until Monday.

And, on the subject of shipping, here's an interesting excerpt from the story:

"More than 46 percent of the major online retailers emailed their subscribers on Monday Dec. 17, a.k.a. free shipping day, with offers to ship gifts free with no minimum purchase. Fewer than 10 percent made that offer last year, according to marketing software company Responsys.

"That spurred shoppers to spend more — online shopping is expected to have risen 17 percent this holiday season to a record $43.4 billion, according to comScore. But with that increase came logistical problems, and not just at small retailers."
KC's View:
On the other hand, this storm could be good news for bricks-and-mortar retailers, who may seen an influx of customers over the weekend when people start worrying that certain presents aren't going to show up on time.

If those customers are able to get around in the snowstorm.