NEW YORK — With forecasts calling for strong holiday sales despite fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, retailers are doing everything they can to convince consumers that their stores and websites are the ones to shop.
Walmart kicked off the holiday deals at its stores earlier than ever this year, introducing special offers at midnight on October 25. The Early Deals Drop included savings on top items electronics, gaming, toys, home and sporting goods, according to the retailer. And on November 2 Walmart hosted the first of a series of “retailtainment” events that will include some tied to such popular movies as Star Wars, Pokemon and Frozen 2.
“Our price leadership is strong, and growing, and we’re excited to deliver savings for all of our holiday shoppers,” said Steve Bratspies, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer of Walmart U.S. “Saving our customers time is also paramount at this time of year, especially with fewer days to get ready for big family meals, parties and gift giving.”
Bratspies said Walmart is leveraging technology to make shopping easier, from getting ideas for presents via its online Gift Finder and its Scannable Toy Catalog to getting items faster by using the expanded Checkout with Me service to skip the line at the cash register or ordering online and taking advantage of free next-day delivery.
Target Corp. is also counting on enhanced customer service, exclusive products and special deals to drive holiday sales.
“Last year was our most successful holiday in more than a decade, and that momentum has continued with industry-leading results throughout 2019,” said Target chief executive officer Brian Cornell. “Our strategy is paying off, and heading into the holidays, our investments and unmatched focus on service will make it easier for guests to shop on their terms, save and experience the joy of the season. This season, we’re making our biggest investment in holiday payroll to ensure our team members will be ready to assist our guests when they are shopping most. Coupled with the tremendous response we’re seeing to Target Circle, our suite of same-day delivery services and compelling assortment, I’m confident Target will be America’s favorite place to shop this holiday and beyond.”
The retailer said it is adding nearly $50 million in payroll compared to last holiday to ensure that more team members are available to assist guests during peak hours, and it is doubling the number of team members dedicated to fulfillment, including same-day services, so guests can get their orders in as soon as an hour.
Target also plans to differentiate its merchandise assortment with its exclusive brands, an expanded assortment of toys and gifts under $15, and its Disney “shop-in-shop” locations.
The stakes are high this holiday season. The National Retail Federation (NRF) has forecast that retail sales in the holiday months of November and December will total between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion this year — an increase of between 3.8% and 4.2% over last year’s figure.
Consumers say they will spend an average of $1,047.83 this holiday season, up 4% from the $1,007.24 they said they would spend last year, according to the annual survey released today by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics. Shoppers between the ages of 35 and 44 plan to spend the most, at $1,158.63.
“Consumers are in good financial shape and willing to spend a little more on gifts for the special people in their lives this holiday season,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers are fully prepared to meet the needs of holiday shoppers looking for that perfect mix of sales, quality and selection.”
Another recent survey, this one from Genesys, found that slightly more consumers intend to go into physical stores on Black Friday this year than in 2018. This year 39% said they plan to shop on Black Friday, up 2% from the response in a similar consumer survey the firm conducted last year.