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(Des Moines Register) -- Today is a good time to finish - or, for some, start - that Christmas shopping list.

That'sbecause more than 800 retailers are participating in Free Shipping Day,which promises free delivery by Christmas Eve with no minimum purchase.

Theholiday, a commercial creation like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, hasballooned since being created in 2008, with sales from participatingretailers topping $1 billion each of the past two years.

Retailer List:Visit FreeShippingDay.com

Storesoffering free shipping, which includes those like Younkers,Overstock.com and Scheels, are often targeting last-minute shoppers,said Ron Prescott, a retail specialist with Iowa State UniversityExtension.

"It's a last-ditch effort for (retailers) to capturesome of those sales," he said. "They have become very competitive withshipping."

And there should be plenty of last-minute shoppers tocapture, thanks in part to an abbreviated shopping season due toThanksgiving's late spot on the calendar.

As of Dec. 9, shopperswere on average 49.5 percent finished with their Christmas lists and anestimated 32 million had not yet begun shopping, according to theNational Retail Federation.

Free Shipping Day, Prescott said,allows stores to challenge online shopping giants like Amazon, whichoffers free two-day shipping year-round through Amazon Prime, its$79-a-year premium service.

Amazon, Best Buy and Wal-Mart are among the large online retailers not participating in Free Shipping Day.

Freeshipping or not, online shopping is expected to grow this year. TheNational Retail Federation expects a 13 percent to 15 percent increase.And that will mean more packages being dropped on doorsteps in thecoming week.

The Postal Service predicts that more letters will besent today and more packages will be sent Thursday than any other daysof the year. In Des Moines, the number of packages processed tonight isexpected to be roughly double the average weeknight.

Nationwide, the Postal Service expects the number of packages sent this holiday season to climb 12 percent to 420 million.

UPS,which estimates that 40 percent of its business comes from e-commerce,expects to deliver 132 million packages this week, making it thecompany's busiest of the year. Many of those packages were picked upMonday and delivered Tuesday, which UPS predicted would be its twobusiest days of the year.

For FedEx, the busiest week of the year came after Black Friday, when the company delivered an estimated 85 million packages.

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