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Tech Savvy: Holiday shopping deals are here — and early

The National Retail Federation reported consumer behavior has shifted “with consumers preferring to spread their shopping out over the entire season.”

In a photo illustration, two shoppers walk next to each other with multiple bags in hand.
The National Retail Federation surveyed 2,000 customers in late September finding 62% of shoppers agreed spending on holiday gifts and celebrations was important and they would cut back in other areas “so their loved ones can celebrate like they always do.”
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BRAINERD — Christmas in July is certainly a thing, just watch Hallmark, but Christmas in October?

This year, October has a definite holiday feel and it isn’t because of the approaching Halloween. Instead, this week offers early sales with retailers touting fall events as a way to get an early start on holiday shopping, entertaining and baking.

“Retailers are responding to consumer demand by starting deals and promotions for winter holiday merchandise earlier in the year,” the National Retail Federation reported this fall. “That also allows consumers to spread out their budget over a longer period of time and search for the best deal for their holiday purchases.

“This year, retailers moved up their peak shipping season to allow for additional time to bring in products for the winter holiday season. According to NRF’s latest consumer survey, 44% of holiday shoppers say it’s better to purchase gifts and other seasonal items now because they believe inflation will continue to impact prices later in the year. Another 31% believe it’s best to purchase items now because the deals won’t get any better.”

The National Retail Federation reported consumer behavior has shifted “with consumers preferring to spread their shopping out over the entire season.”

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“Retailers adjust their promotion strategies and marketing calendars to meet consumer demand,” the federation reported. “For many, that could mean launching holiday sales early or understanding that promotions and sales might be even more important to consumers this year, in light of inflation and higher cost of living.”

Holiday sales are underway

Amazon’s Prime Early Access Sale, included with the Prime membership, is offering two days of holiday deals Tuesday, Oct. 11, and Wednesday. Amazon lists the event as two days of holiday deals with notables of gifts for all ages, deals on movies and TV, as the company notes exclusives, discounts on a host of items from cereal to TV wall mounts and clothing, along with benefits of membership. TechCrunch reported this is the first time Amazon is having two sales events just for Prime members in the same year.

Walmart has its own version with deals starting Monday through Thursday. Walmart will have a “Rollbacks and More” sale on a host of products.

Target already started its deal days Thursday, Oct. 6, which continue through Saturday. The retailer reports the Target Deal Days event represents “the earliest access ever to deep holiday deals on must-have items and everyday essentials.”

Shoppers won’t have to worry they are missing out on a better deal if they choose to shop early with retailers instituting price match guarantees.

Target listed the three days of sales as early Black Friday deals and included a holiday price match guarantee to match the price if it goes lower anytime between now and Dec. 24. So hang on to those receipts and price adjustments can be made at the store or by calling guest services for online purchases.

“Throughout the season, guests will discover new and differentiated items for gifting and gathering, including only-at-Target owned brands and must-have national brands, and they can expect great deals and everyday low prices at every turn for an unmatched holiday shopping experience,” said Christina Hennington, executive vice president and chief growth officer, Target.

Kohl’s is also in the mix with Kohl’s Cash and shopping discounts creating savings for shoppers or expanding their buying power.

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“As shoppers prepare their holiday lists earlier than ever this year with value top of mind, they can count on Kohl’s for unmatched savings on top gifts across all categories, all season long,” Kohl’s reported, noting sale items or offers will be listed every day from Oct. 6 through Christmas Day with “more opportunities than ever to earn and redeem Kohl’s Cash and NEW every day earn from Cyber Monday through Christmas Eve, and, this is the first holiday season Kohl’s Reward members nationwide earn 7.5% Kohl’s Rewards on every purchase when using a Kohl’s Card.”

Last year, supply shortages had consumers looking to get online orders and in-person shopping done earlier. This year, the retailers are kicking off holiday sales earlier and there are expectations more people will want to get back to a pre-pandemic experience as well.

The annual holiday shopping kick-off has been evolving for a number of years before the coronavirus pandemic changed it abruptly and now it's changing again in a move back to a Friday event away from Thanksgiving with online options, curbside pickup and deals all month long and into December.

In a September news release, Walmart stated it will be offering “better value and more convenience than ever as customers start their holiday shopping.” Walmart reported customers start their holiday shopping research in October and the retailer announced “price investments for even deeper savings, three new and expanded returns options, a broader assortment with more top gifts, a new community giving platform and an enhanced omnichannel shopping experience to deliver for its customers all season long.”

Tom Ward, executive vice president and chief eCommerce officer, Walmart U.S., stated, “We listened to our customers, and the way we’re approaching holiday this year underscores our commitment to making holiday shopping easier, affordable and more enjoyable.”

Walmart reports it will be providing customers with deeper savings across a broader assortment of gifts. The three new and expanded returns options the company announced include extended holiday return windows from Oct. 1 through Jan. 31, 2023. Customers will be able to return items curbside from their vehicles. And Walmart+ members in select stores will have the option of having returns picked up at their doorsteps by handing the return to a delivery driver.

Walmart also introduced its Spark Good program to support community giving. Spark Good Round-Up means customers can round-up their purchase total and donate to their charity of choice when shopping online — year-round. The Spark Good Registry provides the option for nonprofits to create a registry of items they need, not unlike a wedding or baby registry, Walmart noted.

“An impact dashboard will allow customers to see how Walmart and others in their community are supporting their favorite charities,” Walmart reported.

As for its “omnichannel shopping experience” Walmart is referring to efforts it states make the online shopping experience better and more personal, with a virtual try-on and “View in Your Home” option, such as other sellers offer like Home Depot’s “See this in my room” visualization to see how a new product, even flooring, would fit into one’s home before it’s purchased.

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The National Retail Federation surveyed 2,000 customers in late September finding 62% of shoppers agreed spending on holiday gifts and celebrations was important and they would cut back in other areas “so their loved ones can celebrate like they always do.”

“However, 43% of consumers say they don’t earn enough to cover the costs of gifts and other holiday items this year,” the federation stated, noting 40% are looking at dipping into savings, 32% are looking at taking on credit card debt, 25% are using services like buy now, pay later or selling things to gain income.

Walmart reported it is hiring 40,000 employees for seasonal and part-time roles through the holidays. Target reported it is hiring up to 100,000 holiday workers. Kohl’s is hiring thousands of associates at its stores for the holiday season.

With retailers looking to add seasonal jobs to help through the holiday season, the federation noted the labor market is robust but still not “close to normal” considering pre-pandemic times.

“Retail added 44,000 jobs in August and employment in August was the highest number we’ve seen in the last five years. Retail employment has increased more than 800,000 in the last two years and is up more than 2.5 million since the peak of the pandemic.

“Retailers and delivery companies are preparing for a peak shopping season by hiring seasonal workers and offering thousands of jobs.”

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz .

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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