Retailers' Hottest Holiday Gambit Won't Save Them

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At least one hot item seems to have made every retailer's list this holiday season: free shipping. Best Buy (Nasdaq: BBY  ) has followed several other major retailers in dangling that particular temptation before online shoppers. But while many of these strategies sound impressive on paper, they lack competitive firepower in reality.

Best Buy's free shipping deal will apply to "hundreds of thousands" of products, including CDs, Blu-ray and DVD movies, and gaming software. However, several crucial hot products won't be included in the deal, including Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPads and laptop computers.

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) and Target (NYSE: TGT  ) already have their own twists on free shipping promotions. These offers also aim to take a swipe at online retailers like (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) and (Nasdaq: OSTK  ) .

Still, like Wal-Mart's plan (which also covered a limited amount of items, and excluded hot items such as the iPad), Best Buy's version may not be aggressive enough to jazz holiday shoppers into spending. Excluding some of the hottest giftable gadgets seems like a lackluster commitment to firing up a holiday feeding frenzy.  

Given its mediocre parallels with Wal-Mart's offer, Best Buy's announcement sounds a lot like keeping up with the Joneses, retail style. What do you think? Do retailers need to make a bigger splash to generate sales? After all, a highly promotional stance does hurt retailers' margins, but it can seriously boost customer interest and sales volume -- both key in the all-important holiday season. Share your opinion in the comment box below.

Best Buy and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Apple,, and Best Buy are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Best Buy. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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