NEW YORK — As the holiday shopping season gets under way, the latest forecasts suggest that consumer spending will be up this year. But retailers are taking no chances, offering special deals and free shipping to get customers to shop their stores or websites.
Walmart announced this month that it is expanding its product assortment in stores and online (including new national brands and more exclusive items), and will provide free two-day shipping on more than 2 million items bought in orders that exceed $35.
Walmart also plans to host more than 20,000 holiday events at its stores, giving shoppers the chance to try out popular items, and will again boost its staff with special “holiday helpers” dedicated to helping shoppers.
“Serving customers is our everyday passion at Walmart, and during the holiday season we work even harder to deliver what our customers want most — to save time and money,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer at Walmart U.S. “We’re leveraging our more than 4,700 stores and Walmart.com to deliver more assortment, exclusives, convenience and savings than ever before.”
Target Corp. on November 1 introduced free shipping with no minimum order size. The retailer is also seeking to become a destination for gift seekers with four special collections curated for women, men, kids and teens and featuring nearly 1,700 items, most of which are exclusive to Target and priced at under $15, as well as hundreds of stocking stuffers for only $1.
Target also debuted a service called GiftNow on Target.com, which allows gift givers to click the GiftNow button on products on Target.com and send an e-gift box to someone. The recipient can then accept the gift, change the color or size, or choose something entirely different, before anything ships.
“While there’s an incredible amount of change happening across retail, we’re focused on doing what’s best for our guest and leaning into what makes Target special, particularly during the holidays,” said Target chairman and chief executive officer Brian Cornell. “We’re making progress against our long-term strategy and entering the season with momentum. Our team of more than 400,000 is ready to deliver joy to our guests all season long with more new and exclusive brands than ever, thousands of unique gifts at a great value, faster and more convenient ways to shop and save, and engaging holiday experiences in our stores across the country.”
Retailers are competing for their share of what is expected to be a strong holiday sales season. Consumers say they will spend an average of $967.13 this year, according to the annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for the National Retail Federation. That’s up 3.4% from the $935.58 consumers said they would spend when surveyed at the same time last year.
“With employment and incomes increasing, consumers are more confident this year, and that is reflected in their buying plans for the holidays,” said National Retail Federation (NRF) president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Retailers have been stocking up in expectation of this, and all signs are that this will be a busy holiday season. Retailers are preparing for a rush of consumers leading into Thanksgiving and all through December, and are offering a wide array of merchandise and promotions so shoppers can find great gifts and great deals at the same time.”
The consumer survey comes on the heels of NRF’s annual holiday spending forecast, which takes into account a variety of economic factors and projects that holiday retail sales in November and December will be up between 3.6% and 4% this year, for a total between $678.8 billion and $682 billion.
For the first time in survey history, online is the most popular shopping destination this year, cited by 59% of the surveyed consumers.