Online retailer Amazon has scrapped free “super saver” delivery to the UK on some products worth less than £10.
It reverses a policy introduced in October 2009 that let items be sent without postage charge if customers agreed to wait up to five business days for delivery after the dispatch date.
The new threshold will not apply to books, DVDs, music, video games and software products.
Amazon said the move would “affect only a very small proportion of orders”.
But one retail analyst said the move could still be “damaging” for the online retailer.
Customers buying non-qualifying products, such as a USB memory stick worth less than £10, for example, would face a postage and packaging charge of £3.99. Some postage charges on other goods could be even higher.
Neil Saunders, analyst with retail specialist Conlumino told the BBC: “This is potentially damaging for Amazon as there is likely to be resistance to this change from some customers, particularly those infrequent shoppers who don’t mind waiting a bit longer for their goods to arrive.”
Amazon, which achieves about £3bn a year in UK sales, said multiple orders worth less than £10 could still be delivered free if they included a qualifying product, such as a book or DVD.
The retailer said the imposition of a minimum spend threshold would allow it to offer “a significantly expanded selection of lower priced products”.
Amazon has vastly expanded the number of goods it offers online in recent years, including clothes, groceries and health and beauty products, not to mention the goods being sold by third-party vendors.
As a result, “the economics of offering free delivery on cheap goods just don’t stack up anymore”, says Bryan Roberts, analyst with Kantar Retail.
Analysts also speculate the change may be designed to promote the Amazon Prime delivery service, which costs £49 a year for one-day delivery on an unlimited number of orders.
“The more customers who use Prime the better for Amazon as it helps their retention and loyalty figures, but occasional shoppers are unlikely to switch as it is quite expensive,” said Mr Saunders.
Amazon is also trying to push people towards making multiple purchases as profit margins on some low-volume products are “very low”, he argues.
In June, Amazon.co.uk scrapped free super saver delivery to a number of countries, including Italy, Spain, Greece, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and Vatican City.
This used to provide free delivery on orders over £25.