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Consumer Confidential: Walgreen goes cyber, free shipping from L.L. Bean, box fans recalled

March 24, 2011 | 10:05 am

Drugpic Here's your shake-your-groove-thing Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- The world's largest drugstore chain is about to get even bigger ... in cyberspace. Walgreen plans to buy online retailer Drugstore.com for $429 million. What's particularly noteworthy about the deal is that Drugstore.com, despite its prominent name, has never turned an annual profit. The site sells health, beauty, skincare and other products. It now competes with the likes of Amazon.com and Wal-Mart's website, not to mention manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, which have begun selling directly to consumers online. Maybe Walgreen sees something in Drugstore.com that isn't readily apparent to the rest of us.

-- In the market for some flannel-lined jeans? L.L. Bean will make it easier (and cheaper) to get your hands on a pair with a new policy of waiving all shipping fees. The outdoors and clothing retailer says it doesn't matter when you make an order or how much it's for -- no shipping fees will apply. Period. The company says it's responding to customers' requests for free shipping. This last holiday season drove home the point for many e-tailers. In 2009, 30% to 35% of online holiday purchases involved free shipping; this past season, the figure grew to as much as 45%, according to market researcher comScore. The good news for shoppers is that when big dogs like Bean offer free shipping, it places pressure on rival companies to do the same.

-- Heads up: Nearly 5 million box fans made by Pennsylvania-based Lasko Products are being recalled because of a fire risk. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says an electrical failure in the fan's motor can cause the things to burst into flames. No injuries have been reported, but the company has received seven reports of fires associated with motor failures. That includes two house fires and one barn fire — all of which involved extensive property damage. The fans were made in the United States and sold at mass merchandisers nationwide from July 2002 through December 2005. If you have one, safety officials say you should stop using it pronto. Lasko will provide special adapters that apparently mitigate the risk.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Drugstore.com is being snapped up by Walgreen for $429 million.

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