12/09/2011 05:00 EST | Updated 12/06/2012 05:12 EST

Free Shipping Day For Canada Dec. 12

TORONTO - A Canadian entrepreneur who convinced hundreds of American e-tailers to join his annual Free Shipping Day campaign is hoping to do the same north of the border.

Regina native Luke Knowles launched the concept behind, which is now in its fourth year and has about 1,800 big and small online stores signed up to participate. Apple, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, JCPenney, Gap, Kmart, Macy's, Nordstrom, Radio Shack and Sears are among the e-tailers that have agreed to offer free shipping for purchases made Dec. 16.

The date is different each year but is timed to be about a week from Christmas, giving consumers a chance to do some last-minute online shopping without heading to the chaotic malls, says Knowles.

This is the first year that Knowles has set up a separate site for Canadians, although it falls a little earlier since our online orders can take longer to deliver.

So far, more than 50 Canadian online stores are promising free shipping on Dec. 12, which Knowles calls a good start. He'd been trying for years to drum up support for the idea in Canada.

"We started four years ago with 250 merchants in the U.S. and now we're going to be well over 2,000 this year, so you've got to start somewhere," he says.

"We're really pleased there's over 50 merchants participating right now (in Canada) and more are signing up every day. So if we can get to 75 or 100 that'll be a success for us."

Knowles, who also set up a similar site in the United Kingdom, says the Canadian e-commerce industry is a bit of a laggard, although e-tailers are catching on.

"Canada is a little bit behind the United States as far as online shopping goes and especially as far as free shipping goes � in the U.S. free shipping has almost been like you've got to offer it, because everyone's offering it," he says.

"In Canada, it's getting there and getting there quickly. I think last year and the year before Canada was even further behind the U.S. but this year I'm starting to see they're catching up quickly, and part of that is probably the influence of American companies."

Among those participating in are Adidas, Aldo, Apple, Banana Republic, Best Buy, Dell, Dyson, Indigo, Gap, Garage, Old Navy, Roots, The Source, Sport Chek, Staples, Toys R Us and Under Armour.