By Kali Hays
with contributions from David Moin, Sharon Edelson
 on November 1, 2017
Wal-Mart's Holiday Helpers will be more present in stores this year.

With the biggest retailers launching a string of holiday deals at the very start of November, Black Friday could become a thing of the past.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Amazon Inc., among a bevy of others, started November with a range of discounts, delivery deals and events all aimed at competing for vital holiday sales over the next two months.

This holiday season is widely expected to be better than last year, but the rate of success may be artificially low. Moody’s Investor Service in a recent report characterized the past two holiday seasons as “dismal” for retail and that could be driving the early and wide holiday push this year.   

Thanksgiving is still three weeks away, but Amazon opened its Black Friday shop and is marketing “50 days of holiday deals” made up of items like toys, electronics and a wide range of men’s and women’s apparel and accessories. Items are being discounted up to 30 percent and free shipping is available for all shoppers on more than 100 million items.

Amazon also just launched a new augmented reality portion of its shopping app that allows iPhone users to “visualize the aesthetic and fit of products in their own living space” with the ability to overlay a product image with a camera view of a particular space.

The Treasure Truck is another element of Amazon’s holiday rollout this year. Shoppers in 25 cities can opt to be notified when an Amazon truck carrying specific gift items aimed at certain interests (“foodie,” “hostess,” “kids,” “techie”), as well as “seasonal food items,” is in their vicinity, and they can order and pick up products directly from the truck.

Members of Amazon’s Prime subscription will be getting special and early discounts through certain “lightning deals,” along with access to same-day shipping in 5,000 cities, one-to two-hour shipping in 30 cities and, starting next week, Amazon Key, a delivery service rolling out in 37 cities that brings packages into a shopper’s home.   

Not to be outdone, Wal-Mart is starting its own holiday push this week as well, and it’s trying to bring an energetic element to its biggest shopping season. In a statement, the retailer said its goal is “to help customers nail every detail of the holidays so they can rock this Christmas.”

In addition to having tripled its holiday product assortment online and in stores and offering free two-day shipping on orders over $35 without need of a membership, as well as same-day pickup, Wal-Mart will be having “tens of thousands” of “product parties” and hiring more dedicated holiday employees to make shopping “even more convenient and fun.”

The product parties will essentially be interactive product demos and there will be three over the coming weeks focused on toys, which will include an in-store santa, parties and gifts.

Steve Hilton, Wal-Mart’s chief revenue officer, said the company “launched some really powerful things for customers this year” like a discount for ordering online and picking up at a store, and noted they “will be playing a big role during the holiday season.”

“Serving customers is our everyday passion at Wal-Mart, and during the holiday season we work even harder to deliver what our customers want most…to save time and money,” Steve Bratspies, Wal-Mart’s chief merchandising officer, said. “We’re leveraging our more than 4,700 stores and to deliver more assortment, exclusives, convenience and savings than ever before.”

But it’s not only Amazon and Wal-Mart that want to make the most of this holiday season, which is expected to see shoppers spend an average of just over $1,200 on gifts. Target, Kohl’s Corp., Sears Holdings Corp., Kmart, eBay and Tanger Outlets have all already unleashed holiday discounts.

Target revealed its holiday plans last week, touting “thousands of exclusive gifts under $15,” special “weekend deals” throughout this month and next, and similar to Wal-Mart, “festive in-store experiences.”

“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,” Brian Cornell, Target’s chairman and ceo, said.

The retailer is also launching eight of its planned 12 new private brands during this holiday season, including Hearth & Hand, a collaboration with Chip and Joanna Gaines of the popular TV show Fixer Upper.

Michelle Gass, chief merchandising officer of Kohl’s, said the retailer isn’t just pushing value, but is offering on certain days the Kohl’s cash promotion, which gives a shopper $15 for every $50 they spend. Shoppers will also be getting $15 in Kohl’s Cash for the purchase of certain Black Friday items through Nov. 20.

The Kohl’s Cash program will also be tied in with use of Kohl’s digital wallet app, which Gass said has 20 million downloads, and makes it easy for customers to redeem rewards points, coupons and gift cards at checkout.

“Digital is a big focus for us,” Gass said. “The wallet resonates with our customers. Apps need to have a purpose in order for them to be downloaded.”

There will be plenty of deals on offer as well, including apparel for women, men and children, like tops for $9.99 and and cashmere sweaters for $39.99. Kohl’s mix of private label and outside brands is about equal, but Gass expects a “great” focus on in-house apparel lines, while sales of activewear and home goods continue dominate for its national brands.

Sears and Kmart, both divisions of Sears Holdings Corp., have launched a monthlong storewide “holiday blowout” giving members of Shop Your Way loyalty program 10 to 50 percent off everything at Sears and 10 to 40 percent off everything at Kmart, including apparel for men, women and children, and a range of home goods, appliances and tools.

Meanwhile, new research from eBay estimated that 45 percent of Americans start their search for gifts well before Black Friday, mostly because they think there’s a better choice of gifts early. So, eBay is going for “early bird shoppers” with deals at 30 to 60 percent off regular prices and fast, free shipping on gifts from brands like Adidas, Dyson, Hunter, Samsung and others popular on the marketplace. It’s also guaranteeing the lowest price on more than 50,000 deals and gifts.

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc., which operates dozens of outlet malls in the U.S. and Canada, is home to brands like Nine West, Tommy Hilfiger and Neiman Marcus Last Call, just launched a holiday style guide and announced extended opening hours.

For More, See:

Happy Days: NRF Sees 3.6 to 4 Percent Holiday Sales Rise

Online to Surpass In-store Spending for Holiday, Deloitte Study Shows

Brick-and-Mortar Still Kicking for Holiday, AlixPartners Survey Reveals

Coach, Kate Spade Bags Lead in Pre-holiday Trending Accessories

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