For years Americans have enjoyed free shipping from handfuls of huge retailers, often at minimum purchase points hovering around $50. Canadians, meanwhile, contend with higher prices and much fewer free shipping deals. But a reprieve is on the way, in the form of Canada’s second annual Free Shipping Day, on December 12th. And this year even more retailers are getting into the act, including biggies like Sportchek, Sears, The Source and Roots. This year, there are 142 stores participating in Canadian Free Shipping Day. Much less than the 2,600 stores participating in the U.S., but it’s a start, Canada!
Part of the reason retailers are signing on to the promotion is competition. Canadian retailers are increasingly feeling pressure to compete with American retailers, which, when they don’t offer free shipping year round, still offer it for much of the holiday season. A single-day shipping promotion isn’t much, but it signals a growing awareness on the part of Canadian retailers that free shipping is now the cost of doing business in a heated retail climate.
Overall, many Canadian retailers are lowering the minimum purchase bar for free shipping, which currently ranges anywhere from $100 (at Reitmans.com) to no minimum at all (Roots, during the holiday season). There are many reasons why it’s taken Canada so long to begin coming around to free shipping, but the most obvious one is cost. “In Canada the shipping costs are a nightmare,” Free Shipping Day Canada founder Luke Knowles told the National Post. He also said shipping takes much longer in Canada.
For small business owners, however, free shipping is a prohibitive, margin-eating perk. They’re pressured to offer a service they can’t afford because customers, used to the free shipping provided by Amazon and Zappos, demand it. Aware that debilitatingly high shipping costs are untenable for small business, companies like FedEx are starting discount programs specifically customized to these micro merchants.
For the Canadian customer, especially at a holiday time, free shipping is a much-appreciated perk. Or at the very least, one small step towards alleviating the feeling that we’re always paying much more for everything than our neighbours to the south.