Once burned, twice learned.
That could sum up this year's preholiday attitude of online retailers. Remembering last year's season when an avalanche of late-ordered merchandise got gummed up during the delivery process, retailers are building in what they hope to be a sufficient time cushion in their supply chains this year, according to a survey released yesterday by the National Retail Federation (NRF).
As a result, consumers will, in general, need to order sooner rather than later to ensure their merchandise is delivered before Christmas, an analyst said.
According to a survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, a consultancy, 78.8 percent of retailers said they would set their standard shipping deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery to expire at least a week before Dec. 25. Last year, 73.7 percent set similar deadlines, the survey said.
By contrast, 21.2 percent said they would set those deadlines to expire on Dec. 19 or later. Last year, that figure was 26.3 percent. Standard shipping is generally defined as delivery between three and seven days.
Of the 92.3 percent of retailers polled who planned to offer free standard shipping, 69.1 percent said their guarantee for Christmas deliveries would expire on or before Dec. 19. A little more than 74 percent had a similar deadline last holiday season, according to the survey.
About 56 percent of retailers that plan to offer two-day shipping said their deadlines will expire on Dec. 21. The rest said their deadlines would expire on Dec. 22. About one out of five retailers polled will offer a free or upgraded expedited shipping promotion that will expire on Dec. 23. Half of those polled said they were confortable offering next-day deliveries for orders placed as late as Dec. 23.
In a statement, Pam Goodfellow, Prosper's principal analyst, said the tighter cut-off dates being set by retailers should convince consumers prone to procrastinating to start exploring "shipping offers sooner rather than later."
The survey was divided into two parts, with 55 merchants participating in the first segment in July, and 42 more in the September-October segment. About 36 percent generated annualized online revenue of $250 million or more. Nearly 53 percent of respondents were store-based retailers with multichannel fulfillment operations.