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Wal-Mart announces free shipping for the holidays, putting pressure on competitors

November 11, 2010 | 11:14 am

Wal-Mart is upping the ante on the holidays.

The world's largest retailer announced Thursday that it is offering free shipping on about 60,000 holiday items with no minimum purchase amount or subscription fees now through Dec. 20.

The free shipping offer includes all electronics and thousands of video games, toys, home appliances, furniture, jewelry, baby items and other products.

Eligible items are shipped for free via standard shipping and delivered to customers’ doors three to five business days after the order is processed.

Wal-Mart’s surprising announcement delivers a big blow to smaller retail stores that can’t afford to absorb the cost of free shipping, and larger competitors who also don’t offer the service.

Even online giant Amazon.com requires customers to buy a minimum of $25 in order to receive free shipping. Under the company’s Amazon Prime program, shoppers pay an annual fee of $79 to get unlimited free two-day shipping.

Steve Nave, senior vice president and general manager of Walmart.com, said free shipping would help families save money “so they can bring home more for less.”

The discounter said the new free shipping offer plus the company’s “Site to Store” program, which provides customers free shipping to a Wal-Mart store on tens of thousands of online items, would save shoppers about $25 million this holiday season.

Free shipping has been a hot topic among retailers who sell goods on the Internet as research has shown that many customers avoid buying online because they don’t want to pay for delivery costs.

-- Andrea Chang

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