Wal-Mart Stores Inc. needs to win this holiday season — so it’s starting it earlier than ever.
With everyone from Amazon.com to dollar stores chipping away at its market share and price position; earnings expected to fall in the next two fiscal years, including a 6 to 12 percent drop in 2017, and its stock price battered, the world’s largest retailer can’t afford to come up short over the next two months.
That is why the world’s largest retailer is starting the holiday season early, on Sunday, promising more rollbacks with a longer duration of 90 days.
Wal-Mart expects 140 million customers to pass through its doors each week and anticipates more than 210 million visits to its app in November and December, up from 18 million in 2013. Almost 75 percent of the traffic to walmart.com during the holiday season is seen coming from mobile devices, making this the most integrated shopping season in its history, the retailer said.
Wal-Mart predicted wearables will be a bestseller and popular items such as the Apple iPad mini 2 will be priced at $199. The retailer said it bought deep in popular categories and trending items, using data and insights from adults and kids who participated in its Chosen By You program. For example, “Star Wars,” “Minions,” “Jurassic Park” and “Paw Patrol” licensed merchandise are predicted to sell strongly along with a new collection by The Pioneer Woman exclusive to Wal-Mart.
Judith McKenna, chief operating officer of Wal-Mart U.S., said, “I want customers to be in awe when they see what we have to offer as they walk into our stores or click around our site. Our managers have made a lot of progress to improve the shopping experience before the holidays and our merchants made sure we have the right products in stock. We’re delivering the prices customers expect, but we’ve taken it up a notch.”
Mobile check-in is being rolled out so customers can alert a store when they arrive to pick up an online order and there’s new branding for in-store pickup. Wal-Mart is leveraging is 4,500 U.S. units to drive the buy online, pick up in store option.
“Our customers are looking for great deals no matter how they shop with us — whether in-store, online or on their mobile device,” said Fernando Madeira, president and chief executive officer of walmart.com. “We’re building digital capabilities so it’s faster and easier for them to find the right items at the right prices and get them delivered quickly to their door or to a store.”
The retailer said its holiday approach follows a number of initiatives that were rolled out earlier this year to accelerate digital innovation, bridge in-store and online shopping and improve inventory management. Wal-Mart has been working to achieve other goals such as making stores cleaner, checkout faster and sales associates friendlier.
Wal-Mart defended its capital spending, saying that its investment of about $1.2 billion this year to raise associates’ wages to $9 an hour, the opening of five new fulfillment centers and an emphasis on fresh food are paying off. Next year, the company will spend $1.5 billion to increase associates’ wages to $10 an hour. An additional $1.1 billion a year will be spent on e-commerce and technology, and the company plans to make price investments in 2016 to 2018 totaling several billion dollars.
Hours after Wal-Mart announced its holiday strategy, Target said it will offer new and expanded digital tools for shopping and free shipping and returns at target.com. Target usually requires a $25 minimum order to quality for free shipping, but will waive the requirement for online orders placed from Nov. 1 to Dec. 25. Wal-Mart continues to require a $50 order to qualify for free shipping.
Target Wonderland, a16,000-square-foot retail spectacle in New York’s Meatpacking District, will launch on Dec. 7. Described as a “playful and kinetic environment designed to captivate children and adults,” there will be an “S.S. Free Shipping Lego ship and digitally-driven shopping elements offering a look at the future of retail as imagined by Target.
New international shipping options through a partnership with Borderfree, will enable Target to ship to 200 international destinations and accept payment in almost 60 currencies.
“Target is starting the season with momentum in our business, anchored by increased store traffic and strength in our signature categories of baby, kids, style and wellness,” said chairman and ceo Brian Cornell.
The retailer next week will expand curbside pickup from 21 stores to 121 stores.
A new kids’ wish list app offers child-friendly browse, search and scan abilities, kids can write letters to Santa and get a response in the app or play a new Snow-n-Roll game.
Target’s holiday marketing campaign includes a digital storybook narrated by Neil Patrick Harris with moving pictures and digital animations. Scenes from the story will be seen in Target stores, print and digital advertising and broadcast TV commercials.
Target’s Cartwheel app will have more than 1,000 new deals, with more than 350 deals at 25 percent off or more. Apple watches; Fairbault Woolen blanks, scarves and ponchos; apparel and accessories featuring faux fur, shimmer and shine; beauty gift sets from Sonia Kashuk and PIXI by Petra, and a UNICEF kid power band are expected to be among the top-sellers.