L.L.Bean offers free shipping year-round

LL Bean Spring 2011 catalog.

Kai Ryssdal: All right all you outdoorsy types, this next one's for you. Starting tonight at midnight, you're going to be able to get all the L.L.Bean boots and backpacks you can handle -- shipped for free. The Maine-based retailer says all orders made on its website will receive standard shipping gratis. Forever.

Marketplace's Janet Babin reports.

Janet Babin: I'd sworn off clothes-shopping this month. But when a super deal landed in my inbox, I caved. Four sweaters. And I even paid for shipping.

Equity analyst Brian Sozzi at Wall Street Strategies says I could have done better. He says most consumers won't click 'buy' if they have to pay to ship.

Brian Sozzi: It seems to be a mental sticking point. The customer is saying, 'hey, it's our right to get free shipping, and if you don't offer free shipping, you might actually lose out on a sale.'

It's that important. Analyst Noam Paransky with Kurt Salmon says in surveys, customers list free shipping as the main reason they buy from a certain retailer. Zappos is the only other site to offer unconditional free standard shipping. By late last year, Paransky says lots of retailers used it as a promotion.

Noam Paransky: During this past holiday season, for the first time, over 50 percent of online orders involved free shipping attached to that order.

But someone's got to pay FedEx and UPS. So just how 'free' is that free shipping? Again, here's Brian Sozzi.

Sozzi: It's not as free as you would think. With prices for crude oil, shipping costs and other transportation costs going through the roof, retailers will be looking to raise prices.

Ultimately, free shipping gets baked back into the purchase price. But Sozzi says that's not expected to stop the trend: L.L.Bean's competitors might be forced to follow suit.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

Log in to post5 Comments

Why did this warrant a story? Almost every online retailer has offered free shipping for some time. It is now expected by most consumers and a factor in purchase decisions.

Hey Christopher: Thanks so much for your comments. LL Bean stopped offering free shipping back in 1991. But you are correct, the retailer did offer it for the first 80 or so years of its existence. Noted. Best, Janet

Hey Christopher: thanks so much for your comments. LL Bean stopped offering free shipping in 1991. But you are correct, that it did offer free shipping for the first 80 or so years of its existence. Noted. Best, Janet

This website printapons and retail me not very beneficial to increasing the speed of online shopping as well as the ease of finding the best price and coupons, which is the whole reason for shopping online.

Youth is wasted on the young. An older reporter (or editor) might've mentioned that L.L. Bean NEVER charged for "standard shipping" back in the day when there was only ground shipping from the post office and UPS. The last few years, when shipping was a separate charge, is a blip in the company's long history, and one to which I am pleased to bid farewell! The experiment has failed.

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