Firing the first salvo in the shipping wars ahead of the holiday shopping season, Toys R Us announced today it is lowering its free shipping threshold by more than half, from $49 to $19 for both its Toys R Us and Babies R Us brands.
The $19 minimum is lower than Target ($25) and Walmart ($35).
“We’re constantly evaluating our offerings and listening to our customers to determine how we might enhance their online shopping experience,” said Matt Blonder, vice president of ecommerce for Toys R Us, U.S. in a statement. “Based on current insights and a comprehensive review of the competitive landscape, we’ve decided to drastically lower our free shipping minimum, just in time for the holiday season.”
The $19 free shipping threshold applies to all purchases on Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com, though surcharges may apply on heavy and/or oversized items. However, the large majority of items offered online are eligible.
“While we don’t have the historical data to confirm if this is the lowest threshold we’ve ever provided, it is the lowest free shipping minimum we have offered in recent history,” said Toys R Us spokesperson Alyssa Peera. “Since 2012, the threshold has varied from $49 to $79 at different times of the year with limited time promotions available at lower minimums.”
The company offers free shipping with no minimum requirement on all baby gear items (car seats, strollers, bouncers, high chairs, etc.) purchased on Babiesrus.com.
Expect counter-moves in the coming weeks from competitors like Target and Walmart, which have free shipping thresholds of $25 and $35, respectively, and Amazon is sure to up its game in response to any shipping discounts from retailers. Last year, Walmart offered free shipping on its top 100 items from early November through Dec. 20, while Target in June announced free shipping on “nearly all” orders over $50.
Of course there’s no such thing as free, as retailers are either eating into margins – hoping to make it up in sales volume – or baking the costs into product pricing. But the psychological lure of “free” often proves overwhelming for bargain-hunting consumers, and retailers are more than willing to see the loss as an investment in driving traffic and sales.
Let the free shipping free-for-all begin!