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.

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