Christmas Cutoff Dates Show Big Opportunity For Retailers

For the holiday shopping procrastinator in the family, getting an order in at the last minute can be a lifesaver. To help those shoppers in need, most online retailers identify a cutoff date for delivery by Christmas. Last year, by crunch time, 90% of the retailers in the Stella Index offered explicit cutoff dates to guarantee delivery by Christmas.

As of this post, 45% of retailers have posted explicit cutoff dates, with many more expected to pop up in the coming days. These retailers have set expectations early and clearly, allowing shoppers ample time to plan accordingly. With Christmas falling on a Friday this year, December 21st has been the most popular cutoff so far, a date that gives these companies the luxury of an extra weekday to make good on their delivery commitments.

But that doesn’t mean the bar will be set lower. Saks and Nordstrom have both given prospective shoppers some extra time, posting cutoffs on December 23rd for standard shipping. Last year, Apple, Nordstrom and Zappos all posted a December 23rd cutoff date – the latest possible – guaranteeing next-day delivery on Christmas Eve.

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Other retailers may post cutoff dates early to encourage ordering and push them back throughout the holiday, driving last minute sales. Last season, major retailers like Macy’s JCPenney, Estée Lauder, Nike and Dell all pushed their cutoff dates to a later date in December.

These dynamic changes to holiday shipping aren’t easy. They require strong communication between fulfillment and ecommerce teams. If order volumes are well-handled, cutoff dates can be pushed later, but fulfillment teams must also keep a keen eye on the collective volume that their shipping providers are handling in December. Check back in the coming weeks for the latest updates on Christmas cutoff communication.

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