Before the U.S. recession hit in 2007, the phrase "Free Shipping Day" didn't exist in the national vocabulary. After just four short years, Free Shipping Day now stands side-by-side with Cyber Monday and has left Black Friday in the dust. Not bad for an event that was built in under two weeks and, fittingly, gives procrastinators hope for yuletide savings.
Free Shipping Day is a one-day, online-shopping event when thousands of merchants offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve. Now in its fifth year, Free Shipping Day comes
on Monday, December 17, near the tail-end of the shopping season.
A Unique Beginning
-- who, along with his wife, created the popular year-round free shipping website FreeShipping.org
in 2007 -- hatched the idea for Free Shipping Day in two very hectic weeks before the event in 2008. In an abrupt brainstorm, he thought merchants would relish the opportunity to extend the online holiday shopping season, which is fast becoming the preferred mode of buying for those who dread crowded malls and rainchecks.
Knowles understood last-minute purchases are as much a part of the holiday season as eggnog and poinsettias. Yet since the advent of online shopping, consumers have seen December 11th as the final day to order gifts or risk having them come after Christmas Day.
Free Shipping Day shifted this paradigm with a simple concept: Give consumers what they want in a timely, convenient and affordable fashion. In the digital arena, this means free shipping with a guaranteed arrival date. Knowles points to recent stats from a survey that show 90% of consumers spend more when offered free delivery, while nearly half will abandon a shopping cart if met with high fees.
Despite the relatively short history of Free Shipping Day, Knowles' philosophy has propelled it into the national spotlight. And what a history it has been: After just four years, Free Shipping Day is now regarded as a premier shopping holiday.
In 2011, Free Shipping Day produced huge numbers with more than $1 billion in online sales
and was the highest-earning Friday in online retail history. While laudable, the total dollar amounts only tell half the story. Merchants are the driving force behind the success of Free Shipping Day and each year the number of registered stores has almost doubled. For the 2011 event, over 2,600 stores registered with the official Free Shipping Day site, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors. The holiday also went abroad with the first-ever Free Shipping Day Canada
. The Canadian response was amazing and next year's event will be even bigger with more offers and more stores.
Equally impressive is the media attention Free Shipping Day continues to attract. The event has been featured in every format - video, audio, print and online - by trend-setting outfits such as The New York Times, "O" Magazine, Woman's Day, Fox News and dozens more. Along with national publications, hundreds of regional newspapers and broadcasts latched onto the day as a sensible, consumer-friendly way to fill holiday wish lists.
Although Free Shipping Day continues to evolve each holiday season, Knowles is confident it will only grow in prominence as shoppers want to enjoy the holidays without worrying about camping out overnight to secure a coveted gift. Consumers have made their intentions clear: Like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day is here to stay.