Inflation Affects Walmart, Target Holiday Strategies

With prices going up, retailers expect shopping to start earlier
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 22, 2022 7:15 PM CDT
Inflation Affects Walmart, Target Holiday Strategies
Shoppers browse a toy aisle at a Target store in Clifton, New Jersey, on Nov. 22, 2021.   (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

(Newser) – This fall, it won't just seem like the holiday shopping season is starting early. Walmart and Target on Thursday announced an earlier-than-normal launch as part of their holiday sales strategy. As CNN puts it, "Halloween is still a month away, but Walmart is ready for Christmas." Anticipating that Americans worried about inflation will try to buy gifts before prices go up any more, the two retail chains plan to offer deals and price-matching guarantees early this year, the AP reports. For two years now, shoppers have started preparing for the holidays early, but last year it was because the global supply chain had been scrambled. This year, experts believe it is a rapid rise in prices, also tied to pandemic-stricken economies, that will drive Americans to shop early.

Retailers expect slower holiday sales growth compared with a year ago. AlixPartners, the global consulting firm, forecasts that holiday sales will be up 4% to 7%, far below last year's growth of 16%. The current inflation rate of 8.3% means retailers would see a decrease in real sales. Walmart is also expanding the window for returns by more than a month. Gift returns will now be accepted between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31, compared with last year's window of Nov. 1 to Jan. 24, the company said. Walmart is offering a wider assortment of items this year with more new brands and more Walmart exclusives than a year ago. The company said that more than half the toys on Walmart's list of expected hot holiday toys are under $50, and nearly all of the toys are available to shop now or through pre-order on walmart.com.

Target said it will begin offering holiday deals between Oct. 6 and Oct. 8, a few days earlier than a year ago. It will begin price matching then, also a couple of days early. Target has one of the most generous price-matching offers in retail, countering offers from more than two dozen other stores. That also applies to purchases at Target.com. Target plans to hire up to 100,000 seasonal employees in stores and distribution centers this holiday season, in line with a year ago. Walmart is taking a more cautious hiring approach this year, saying this week that it would hire 40,000 US workers for the holidays, a majority of them seasonal workers. Last year, Walmart said it would hire roughly 150,000 new US store workers, most of them permanent, full-time positions.

(Read more holiday shopping stories.)

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