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Discounts start online as final posting days draw closer

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The final days of the pre-Christmas online shopping season are now in sight. Retailers are discounting heavily, offering up to 50% off as the final posting days before Christmas come into view.

The final day for free or standard delivery comes as early as Monday December 16 at some retailers, among them Early Learning Centre , although others, John Lewis among them, are extending their cut-off date as far as Saturday December 21. Next notably offers pre-Christmas standard courier delivery for orders placed as late as 10pm on Sunday December 22.

Those willing to pay for next-day delivery can order until December 19 at ELC, or until midnight on December 22 at The White Company.

Click and Collect orders have a similar lead time to next-day delivery. Tesco Direct , for example, has a 3pm cut off on Sunday December 23 for both its Express Delivery and free Click and Collect orders for collection on Monday December 23.

Among the pureplays, Amazon is offering free delivery on items ordered until December 18, first class delivery for orders placed on December 20, and, notably, evening delivery on Christmas Eve in certain postcodes for orders placed by 9.30am that morning.

With those final delivery dates in mind, retailers are starting to offer deep discounts to boost pre-Christmas sales. Among them are Gap, now offering 50% off selected styles in its sale; House of Fraser, with 40% off in a one-day brand event, Debenhams offering up to 40% off in a Christmas spectacular, Early Learning Centre with 20% off existing discounts in a ‘toy spectacular’, and The Body Shop , now offering 50% off everything with free standard delivery for purchases over £5.

But John Lewis and Marks & Spencer are among those holding the line for later discounts – the John Lewis Clearance famously doesn’t start until Christmas Eve online and after Christmas in the store (although today it is matching a competitor’s promotion).

Meanwhile, figures from Amplience suggest that in the Christmas shopping season so far, peak trading has come later than in previous years.

December 3, Cyber Monday, has traditionally been the zenith of the pre-Christmas shopping season. This year the shopping season appears to have started even earlier, with traffic climbing on the previous ‘Black Friday’ (November 30).

But rich media specialist Amplience found that websites using its merchandising platform saw web traffic double on December 6 compared to Black Friday.

Its chief executive James Brooke said: “Numbers of customers clicking through to purchase were 83% higher on December 6 than on ‘Black Friday’, showing a new weekend has taken the UK ecommerce crown. Traffic and conversions dipped down slightly for Saturday but rose again for Sunday with December 8 seeing 19% higher traffic than the previous Sunday. Numbers remained high across the weekend in the UK.”

He added: “With the emergence of click-and-collect and rapid delivery services, the UK ecommerce peak is creeping closer and closer to Christmas day. We expect traffic to remain high over the weekend as consumers take advantage of well-promoted last shipping days and click-and-collect services.”

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