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What should the Christmas cut-off date be for online retailers?

Santa on tablet

What should the Christmas cut-off date be for online retailers?

Christmas marketing begins as soon as the summer ends for many retailers, but we’re now reaching the point where Christmas Day becomes “a week on Saturday” and perineal yuletide procrastinators like myself have to check carefully to make sure what they’re ordering is likely to arrive in time for December 25th.

Some analysts in the US argue that date might have already been and gone earlier this week. In 2007, online auction giant eBay coined the term Green Monday to describe the second Monday of December. The site claimed this was its busiest sales day of the month, but it also turns out this is the last day on which orders can realistically be expected to arrive before Christmas Day.

Really though, most retailers should still be promoting Christmas delivery to target those seasonally sluggish shoppers among us, but they might want to start thinking about their deadlines. Some retailers like to give themselves a self-imposed last date for delivery before Christmas, such as one week before (which would be this Saturday, December 18). This could be added to the home page of a retail website as a notification that becomes the first thing visitors see when they arrive on the site. Not only does this help avoid disappointment and complaints, but if it is put up a few days before the cut-off date, it can also act as a prompt that says “hey you, hurry up and put your order in!”

For retailers that use Royal Mail, the organisation has given a list of its last recommended posting dates. It’s too late for almost all international delivery now, but the table shows that even economy bulk mail and second-class postage is likely to arrive in time within the UK if posted by this Friday. First-class is OK until next Tuesday, December 21, remembering that postal workers will be delivering on Christmas Eve. Even on December 22 and 23, there are tracked and special delivery options available to guarantee next-day delivery, but these will come at a cost that would have to be passed on to the customer.

Retailers using couriers like Yodel or Hermes will need to check with them what their Christmas standards are, but should also allow for any hiccups. If customers order beyond the recommended latest date, you might want to address them with a pop-up as they place their order, pointing out that their item will probably not arrive in time for Christmas.

If you need help with your website or online store, talk to us at Engage Web. As part of our Fresh Start website package, we can make web amends like adding temporary Christmas notifications to your website for you.

John Murray

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