MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When it comes to holiday shopping, last-minute free shipping can be a saving grace for the procrastinator.

“With shopping, I do put things off,” said Maggie McGill of Plymouth.

Burned by missed Christmas deliveries last year, more stores plan to make you order early.

Of the 92.3 percent of retailers polled who plan to offer free-standard shipping of some sort this holiday season, nearly 70 percent say their guarantee for Christmas delivery will expire on or before Friday, Dec. 19.

A new survey shows nearly eight in 10 retailers are moving up their guaranteed shipping deadlines, expiring a week before Christmas.

That’s up from just over seven in 10 last year, according to a survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics.

David Vang is a finance professor at the University of St. Thomas.

“This time around they’re trying to lower the expectations of the customers to let them know that if you buy something on Christmas Eve, it’s not gonna get here on Christmas,” Vang said.

Last holiday season, some stores that offered free delivery just a few days before Christmas ended up disappointing customers.

Bad weather and poor planning meant presents didn’t make it under the tree.

“One of the more famous ones was Best Buy, which had a whole bunch of items that were either not delivered or they actually had to tell customers, ‘We are not going to get it to you on Christmas,'” Vang said.

[Editor’s Note: Best Buy’s shipping issues referred to by Vang happened in 2011. Best Buy experienced no shipping issues during the 2012 and 2013 holiday seasons.]

With the shortened time frame to ship, retail experts say online sales could soar earlier, and more people may choose to stick to in-store shopping.

“Just kind of get it done now, especially knowing they won’t ship,” McGill said. “That’s kind of scary.”

About 70 percent of retailers plan to make Dec. 19 the deadline for ordering, if you don’t want to pay to get that present by Christmas.

If you really procrastinate, there are still options — but they’ll cost you.

Kate Raddatz

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