SOURCE: Shop.org; Shopzilla

December 06, 2006 06:00 ET

Mark Your Calendars: Most Standard Shipping Deadlines to Expire On or Before Dec. 19, According to eHoliday Mood Study

Survey Finds Catalogs Most Influential in Driving Sales

WASHINGTON, DC and LOS ANGELES, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- December 6, 2006 -- Shoppers who would rather buy online than fight crowds at the mall need to keep a close eye on the calendar. According the 2006 eHoliday Mood Study, conducted by BizRate Research for Shopzilla and Shop.org, customers have about one week left to shop online before retailers start scaling back shipping guarantees.

The Study, which polled 76 online retailers, found that the number of retailers who guarantee that standard shipping orders placed by December 18 or 19 will be delivered by Christmas Day (39%) nearly doubled from last year (19%), despite there being one less business day to ship merchandise this year due to Christmas falling on a Monday rather than a Sunday. Approximately one-third (32%) of retailers' standard shipping deadline is December 15, 16, or 17 and almost a quarter (23%) is December 14 or earlier. A small group of retailers (6%) are pushing the envelope, saying that their magic day for final standard shipping orders to be placed would be December 20 or later.

"As retailers' systems become more sophisticated, shipping deadlines are being extended," said Scott Silverman, Executive Director of Shop.org. "Retailers recognize that many of us procrastinate, so companies are giving shoppers a little extra time to buy online this holiday season. Online retailers will be scrambling to fill every last order so that Christmas presents will be received on time."

"With this year's truncated shopping season, due to Christmas Day falling on a Monday, Internet retailers are working hard for the consumer by prolonging the standard shipping deadlines. This will be a great comfort to the consumer given that one quarter of online shoppers have yet to start their holiday shopping," said Helen Malani, Shopzilla's Chief Shopping Expert. "In fact, more than half of all online retailers (55%) are planning to offer free shipping, with conditions, in the final week leading up to Christmas -- the week of December 17th."

Though retailers have been heavily marketing the holiday season this year, companies said that one plan stands above the rest. According to the Study, catalogs are the most successful offline tool to generate online sales, with 38 percent of retailers rating catalogs as the most successful tool for increasing revenue. Catalogs also resonate with consumers as 43 percent of online shoppers said they typically use printed catalogs to research products and then purchase items online. In fact, more online shoppers typically use printed catalogs to research products and buy online (43%) than use them to research and order products from the catalog (24%).

As expected, online retailers are seeing big gains this holiday season. According to the survey, one-fourth (25%) of online retailers said their holiday sales are at least 50 percent higher than last year at this time. Another one-fourth of retailers (26%) said that holiday sales have grown between 25 and 49 percent over last year. In addition, 68 percent of online retailers said that the average order value has increased over last year and 85 percent found that their site traffic has increased over last holiday season.

Consumers who plan to shop online this year say they will do so to avoid crowds (72%), avoid lines in retail stores (58%), and because they believe it is easier to compare prices (52%).

About the Survey

The eHoliday Mood Study, now in its fifth year, is the only holiday measurement tool based on data provided directly from online retailers in addition to consumer data. The Study, conducted by BizRate Research, a division of Shopzilla, for Shop.org, was designed to gauge consumer behavior and online retailers' success during the winter holiday season. The poll of 1,112 online buyers (defined as anyone who has made an online purchase in the last twelve months) and 76 online retailers, all members of Shop.org, was conducted November 29-30, 2006.

Shopzilla, formerly BizRate.com, is the most powerful and easiest-to-use shopping search site on the Web. With an index of more than 35 million products from more than 87,000 stores, Shopzilla uses ShopRank, a proprietary patent-pending algorithm, to help shoppers instantly find virtually anything on sale from anyone, anywhere on the Web at the best price. Shopzilla is owned by The E.W. Scripps Company (NYSE: SSP), a diverse media concern with interests in national television networks, newspaper publishing, broadcast television stations, TV retailing and licensing and syndication. www.shopzilla.com

Shop.org is the network for retailers online. Its 600 members include the 10 largest retailers in the U.S. and 70 percent of the Internet Retailer Top 100 E-Retailers. It's where the best retail minds come together to gain the insight, knowledge, and intelligence to make smarter, more informed decisions in the evolving world of the Internet and multichannel retailing. Founded in 1996, Shop.org became a division of the National Retail Federation in January 2001. Shop.org programs and activities include benchmarking research, events and networking communities.

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