Shipping tips: Get online orders free and fast during the busiest shopping season

Nothing deflates the spirit of holiday giving as quickly as a special present that doesn’t show up on time. And odds are, this season, which is predicted to be part of the biggest online shopping year yet, deliveries will disappoint those who don’t order early.

Adding to delays: Gift givers are shipping more online items, big and small, directly to recipients, rather than bringing them in person due to social distancing and limits on traveling to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic has also been creating packing delays at warehouses where workers are adhering to safety measures while also trying to handle the surge of online orders that started when stay-at-home orders were issued in March.

How big is the online surge? E-retailing researchers at Digital Commerce 360 project U.S. consumers will spend a record $38.21 billion online between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, a 35% jump from last year.

Less time will be spent browsing in stores this season as more time is used scrolling through retailers’ websites. But stores will still play a role.

Chain retailers boosted their curbside pick up service when stores temporarily closed at the start of stay-home orders, and they continue to try to match Amazon’s generous, same-day or two-day shipping policies.

Some shoppers order directly from stores in the recipient’s hometown so they can pick up gifts themselves instead of relying on overburdened delivery services.

A holiday shopping and shipping survey by Voxware found most respondents (77 percent) plan to have gifts sent to loved ones, although 13 percent said half of the items they purchased online have arrived later than the promised delivery date.

What are shoppers’ options?

Generally, online retailers offer consumers fast and slow choices.

Standard shipping within the U.S. might take three to five days. The cost is $7 at the Gap, unless you spend a minimum of $50, then shipping is free and can take up to seven business days.

In trying to reach the free-shipping threshold, shoppers can’t count the cost of shipping and handling, taxes, gift cards or gift wrap.

Standard shipping to Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. Territories can stretch to 11 business days. Expedited and priority shipping are offered by many retailers for an extra charge, but only for addresses in the continental U.S.

On the flip side, eco-conscious retailers have cut down on packaging and shipping waste by slowing down deliveries and sending all items in one box rather than in multiple boxes.

Shoppers typically receive a perk for being patient, but about a third of online shoppers are willing to pay more for sustainable shipping and packaging, according to a survey conducted in August by Digital Commerce 360 and Digital Bizrate Insights.

The busiest online shopping season ever means you need to order early, ship smartly and expect delays, say experts.

“Give your delivery professionals a little extra time to do their jobs safely,” suggests shipping experts at Coyuchi, which offers organic cotton bedding, towels and sleepwear. “UPS has suspended the UPS

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Muskegon retailers working to make busiest shopping weekend as ‘normal as possible’ amid COVID-19

MUSKEGON, MI – It’s the most wonderful time of the year – for shopping, that is.

The busiest shopping weekend of the year is right around the corner, and Muskegon retailers are working diligently to prepare for incoming shoppers while also adhering to safety guidelines amid a surging coronavirus pandemic.

While Black Friday shopping may look a bit different than usual this year – with mandated mask use, social distancing and limited capacity – Muskegon shoppers can still plan to take advantage of sweet deals at Lakes Mall on Friday, or support local downtown businesses for “Small Business Saturday.”

“We are working to bring the holiday spirit into the shopping experience,” said Tom Suszka, Lakes Mall general manager, in a prepared statement to MLive.

“It is our goal to make the holiday season as ‘normal’ as possible, while adhering to all CDC guidelines and regulations to ensure the health and safety of all our patrons during these uncertain times.”

The Lakes Mall, at 5600 Harvey St., will have enhanced cleaning services, social distancing and contactless service during the busy shopping weekend, Suszka said. The mall will be open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday.

As the coronavirus surges across Michigan – especially in Muskegon County, where the COVID-19 test positivity rate is a whopping 22% – state health officials have ordered restrictions on gatherings and guidelines for shoppers for the upcoming shopping season.

Stores have been limited to 30% capacity by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But the health guidelines won’t stop Muskegon retailers from safely offering their services to shoppers this year, said Muskegon Business Development Manager Dave Alexander.

The city is encouraging consumers to “shop small” this weekend for Small Business Saturday, a time for holiday shoppers to patronize their local, independent retailers.

With dozens of shops to choose from, shoppers can utilize a trolley this weekend to travel back-and-forth between downtown shops and the Lakeside District, Muskegon’s historic shopping district.

“The tram will get you out and about so you can support both areas, giving you easy access to get around,” Alexander told MLive.

Alexander said it’s tough to predict how many people will feel comfortable enough to go out shopping this weekend amid the pandemic. But he said no matter how many people show up, shopkeepers will be masked up to keep visitors as safe as possible.

“Will it be a normal shopping Saturday, where we would have thousands of shoppers through Lakeside and downtown throughout the course of the day? I’m not sure,” Alexander said. “But we want people to be out and enjoying the outdoors and going into shops as they feel comfortable with.”

Now more than ever before, it’s important for consumers to support Muskegon’s small businesses and keep them up and running amid the economic challenges of the pandemic, Alexander said.

“We need to keep these local businesspeople – who are neighbors, who are friends, who are

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iPhones Feed a Gadgets Frenzy During India’s Busiest Gift Season

(Bloomberg Businessweek) — Brands including Apple and Huawei are releasing almost a hundred smartphone models ahead of India’s Diwali shopping bonanza, an unprecedented rollout for companies looking to capture a bigger chunk of the world’s second-largest mobile market.


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More than a dozen foreign and local smartphone makers will vie for attention around the Hindu Festival of Lights on Nov. 14, which ushers in an annual gifting spree that can make an American Christmas seem subdued. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. introduced twice its usual number of devices, while Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Inc. showcased its smaller and more affordable iPhone 12 mini. Even Shenzhen-based Huawei Technologies Inc. pulled out the stops with three new designs, despite renewed Indian-Chinese military tensions over their contested border. (The dispute led Indian traders to call for a boycott of Chinese goods.) The lineup also includes phones custom-designed for the Indian market, geared toward everything from gaming to studying. There have even been zany promos like Xiaomi Corp. India chief Manu Jain starring in a rap video and mobile stores on wheels roaming the countryside.

India’s smartphone penetration rate, which is the share of the population that uses a phone, is about 32%, compared with 61% in China and the U.S.’s 82%, according to data from the 2020 Newzoo Global Mobile Market report—suggesting significant growth potential. “India offers a large and untapped opportunity for smartphone companies,” Bloomberg Intelligence technology analysts Matthew Kanterman and Nathan Naidu said in a note to clients last month. The combination of “cheap data packages, recent 4G rollout, development of diverse local content, and digital payments may further boost the country’s smartphone users.”

Share of Population That Uses a Smartphone

© Bloomberg
Share of Population That Uses a Smartphone

Sales leader Samsung, runner-up Xiaomi, and others hope to catch the recovery in Indian consumption since the initial Covid-19 lockdown, one that’s already driven an 8% rise in third-quarter phone shipments, according to market researcher Canalys. The increase marks a stark reversal from a 51% plummet in the previous three months, when the lockdown closed shops and disrupted supply chains. Some of the pent-up demand has been fed by growth in the WhatsApp messaging service and content streaming via YouTube. At the same time, students and employees have learned to rely on mobile devices for study and work.

“This year’s going to be different going by the velocity of launches,” says Asim Warsi, senior vice president of Samsung’s Indian unit. The company has introduced a dozen new models in the runup to Diwali. The cheapest is a M01 Core at 4,999 rupees ($67), while the most expensive is the Galaxy Z Fold2 at 149,999 rupees. “It’s a very strong comeback, and our outlook is 40% growth in Q4,” Warsi says.

Fifth-generation technology will be put on display. China’s OnePlus Technology will be touting its OnePlus 8T 5G device, and Lenovo Group’s Motorola Razr 5G will offer foldable phone competition. Xiaomi will have its budget-friendly Poco C3; Asustek Computer Inc. will court gamers with its ROG Phone 3. Xiaomi

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