Sam Walton's team took a swipe at online retail giant Amazon.com (AMZN) on Thursday with a new offer of free shipping for many online purchases. Instead of requiring a minimum purchase amount to qualify orders for free shipping, Walmart.com (WMT) will make the deal available for almost 60,000 gift items, including popular toys and electronics, from now through Dec. 20, according to The New York Times.

The move could set off a holiday free-shipping war as the already heated competition for online shoppers heads toward a frenzied Black Friday shopping season crescendo. The trend of free shipping also could accelerate the shift to online shopping for higher-touch goods, which already has hurt mom-and-pop merchants more than anyone else. And it likely won't end with the holidays. Walmart said it might consider other free-shipping deals after its current promotion ends.

For one thing, upfront offers of free shipping can make an online retailer far more attractive. Online shoppers are extremely wary of the possibility of high shipping charges levied at the end of transactions, which has traditionally been a way that many e-tailers -- in particular smaller sellers on eBay (EBAY) or the Amazon Marketplace -- pad their profits.

Amazon has even found a way to make money from so-called free shipping through its Amazon Prime program, in which shoppers pay an annual fee of $79 in exchange for 2nd-Day Air shipping on thousands of items at no additional cost.

Meanwhile, Walmart has been quietly pouring resources into improving its online presence, including expanding its selection. For years, Walmart has used its clout as the nation's largest retailer to squeeze competitors with rock-bottom prices at its stores. Now it is trying to throw a holiday knockout punch online.

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Darin

Why thanks Walmart..Free Shipping..That's nice but I think I'll do business with stores that offer layaway so I can gradually pay off my purchase within the allowed time frame.

November 11 2010 at 11:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bwyou812

K-mart should be the one to congradulate, keeping lawaway as part of the shopping practice. Not only for those on tight budgets at Christmas, but all year round.

November 11 2010 at 9:53 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
bwyou812

Who gives a ****!!! Haven't shopped for Christmas there since they cut out the lawaway. And thier company have been rolling forward (not back) the prices. Free shipping to store has always been there like most. Nothing new, and this reporter thinks he wrote a new story. Walmart does not have the rock bottom price.....

November 11 2010 at 9:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Retool

If they are offering free shipping then it won't cost us a penny for them to ship EVERYTHING made outside our borders back to where it came from!!! Buy made in USA only(made in USA Google search).

November 11 2010 at 9:39 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Shirlee

This is off the subject a bit but it is about Walmart. All the banks were closed today but NOT Walmart's Woodforest Bank. ATTENTION WALMART: This is a day we set aside for our Vets.....could you give the dollar a rest for just one day? I'm sure you have employees that were Vets or their family members are. It is called showing respect for our Veterans.

November 11 2010 at 8:53 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Shirlee's comment
eeyoreasil

WalMart doesn't own the WoodForest Bank...they lease to them.

November 11 2010 at 8:56 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
eeyoreasil

Here in Texas they are also located in Tom Thumb and Kroger....do you really think if WM owned them, they would be in their competors stores? And if you read WoodForests policy, they are open every day except Christmas. And they have free standing bank buildings also.

November 11 2010 at 9:04 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Wes Andersen

Stop the over spending. Stop the freebies.It is OK to be compationate but only when it will be reciprecated in some way. Next pass the Flat tax proposal. It will be much better than what we have now.

November 11 2010 at 7:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Wes Andersen

Stop the over spending.it is fine to be compationate, but only when it is recprecated in some way. Stop the freebies. Next pass the flat tax preposal. It will work better than what we have now.

November 11 2010 at 7:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wes Andersen

Be practable this yera. Buy mom and dad a new set of tools. With all the Walmart junk in your house they sure can use them.

November 11 2010 at 7:17 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Wes Andersen's comment
Retool

make sure the tools are made in the USA!!!!!!

November 11 2010 at 9:34 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

They are hustling with a lot of new ideas but it is too late their abused workers will do them in as the lawyers win every last dime Walmrt has.

November 11 2010 at 6:30 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

This economy is bad some stores will have to go out of business as they have in economies a lot better than this one. Walmart over expanded an there is no way to save all those stores.

November 11 2010 at 6:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply