Black November Is On: Wal-Mart Starts Offering Free Shipping

Today Wal-Mart is offering free shipping with no minimum on on around 60,000 items. The deal will run until December 20th and may continue until Christmas. This is, in short, an attempt to grab commerce through this lucrative month and into the next from other retailers like Amazon and Toys’r’Us.

The holidays are usually an extremely brisk time for online sales and retailers are hoping this year will be better than last. Most retailers reported at least a 16% increase in sales last month, which bodes well for the rest of the season. Another interesting data point is the estimated Kinect sales numbers topping out at 425,000 since launch. This either suggests consumers aren’t ready to dance around in front of their TVs or, a more likely scenario, the Kinect will be the must-have item this season and parents are waiting before they buy.

As for the free shipping, the NYT isn’t very keen on the idea:

But given Wal-Mart’s scale and influence in the marketplace, its free pass for shipping sets a new high — or low — in e-commerce. And it may create an expectation among consumers — free shipping, no minimum, always — that would make it harder for smaller e-commerce sites to survive.

Free shipping, to be fair, will definitely make it much harder for the smaller sites to thrive this year. Incidentally, this Wal-mart deal on a previous-gen iPod Touch isn’t bad if someone has to play Secret Santa at the office.