New Data Highlights Big Box Winter Retail Foot Traffic

In an age of e-commerce and online retail, traditional brick-and-mortar stores have increasingly focused on specific days of the year to push consumer foot traffic in stores.

New data from Placer.ai, which has offices in Los Altos, Calif. and Tel Aviv, suggests retailers such as Walmart, Target and Best Buy target holidays to entice consumers. In a blog post, Ethan Chernofsky, VP of marketing, cited analytical data underscoring how the big box stores fared throughout 2019.

“Walmart may be the undisputed king of offline retail, and much of that centers around its ability to drive excitement and interest throughout the calendar,” Chernofsky wrote. “As opposed to many, Walmart’s peak comes in the days before Christmas with an annual peak hitting on Dec. 23.”

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He said the day before Christmas Eve saw store foot traffic rise 89.2% above the retail behemoth’s baseline for 2019.

“There are clear peaks before Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Day, as well as the obvious Black Friday bump, in addition to an ongoing push in the back-to-school season,” Chernofsky wrote. “The capacity to effectively take advantage of so many key time periods is a hallmark to Walmart’s ongoing success.”

By comparison, Black Friday remains the key day in Target’s retail calendar, driving visits 181.3% above normal. Target has also shown a proclivity to dominate both the back-to-school period and the buildup into Christmas, with both periods driving major benefits to the general merchandise leader.

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For Target, the day before Easter provides one of the few major peaks outside of the holiday and back-to-school seasons, with visits rising 81.7% above the baseline.

“If the retailer can identify another opportunity to drive visits with the same strength as the late summer or holiday period, the impact could catapult the brand to an entirely new level of success,” Chernovsky wrote.

 

 

Finally, Black Friday remains key to Best Buy. The brand sees visits rise a whopping 641.9% above the baseline on the post-Thanksgiving retail holiday.

“Smaller peaks throughout the rest of the holiday season come nowhere near the incredible standard the brand sets on Black Friday,” he wrote.

Placer.ai  said the data highlights opportunities retailers could act upon  to galvanize consumers throughout the year.

“Whether it’s Mother’s or Father’s Day, or an Amazon-esque attempt to create their own holiday [i.e. Prime Day], Best Buy has huge opportunities for growth if it can better leverage the period between January 1st and Thanksgiving,” Chernovsky wrote.

Merchandising: Retailers Deal Out ‘Joker’ Exclusives

Retailers lined up exclusive editions for the Jan. 7 home video release of Warner’s Joker.

Best Buy offered a Steelbook edition of the 4K UHD Blu-ray combo pack for $34.99.

Target’s ‘Joker’ Blu-ray

Target had the regular Blu-ray combo pack with exclusive box art for $24.99.

Walmart’s ‘Joker’ DVD

And Walmart presented a single-disc DVD version as opposed to the widely-available two-disc DVD special edition. Walmart’s version included special box art and a lone bonus feature, the three-minute “Please Welcome … Joker,” a compilation of alternate takes of Joker’s talk-show entrance.

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The special single-disc DVD was offered at $16.96 in stores, but was priced online at $23.59.

The regular two-DVD version was offered at most places, including Walmart online, for $17.99 and offered nearly a half-hour of additional extras, including a making-of documentary.

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Standard box art for ‘Joker’ DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD BD

Merchandising: ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Home Video Exclusives Unveiled

With the film in theaters for less than a week, Target and Best Buy are already touting preorders for their exclusive 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker due sometime in 2020.

With a light slate of new releases on Dec. 24, the retail chains the day before Christmas otherwise offered deep discounts on catalog titles.

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Target’s exclusive 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition is available for a $34.99 preorder and comes with a 4K disc, a regular Blu-ray disc, a digital code for the film, a filmmaker gallery book and exclusive bonus content. The box art features artwork inspired by one of the classic posters for the original 1977 “Star Wars” movie.

Target’s ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

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Best Buy is offering a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack with Steelbook packaging for $34.99.

Best Buy’s ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Steelbook

Best Buy is also selling an exclusive nine-film “Skywalker Saga” 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray boxed set for $249.99. This marks the first 4K disc releases for the first six films of the franchise.

Best Buy’s ‘Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga’ 4K Blu-ray Boxed Set

An all-region version of the “Skywalker Saga” set is also available for preorder through the Amazon U.K. site. The listing indicates a 27-disc set, which would account for a 4K, regular Blu-ray and bonus disc for each film.

Merchandising: Best Buy Presents ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ Steelbook

With most retailers focused more on deep discount holiday sales of catalog titles, the only exclusive of note was Best Buy’s Steelbook 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc of Lionsgate’s Rambo: Last Blood.

Otherwise, Best Buy’s top deals section was dominated by preorders for upcoming Steelbook 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions for $34.99 each.

Listed titles included Warner’s Joker, due Jan. 7; Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Jan. 14); Paramount’s Gemini Man (Jan. 14); Sony Pictures’ Zombieland: Double Tap (Jan. 21); Paramount’s Terminator: Dark Fate (Jan. 28); and Fox’s Ford v Ferrari, listed as a Feb. 11 release.

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Best Buy is also taking preorders for Steelbook titles with street dates yet to be announced, including Knives Out, Jumanji: The Next Level, Frozen II, Midway and Doctor Sleep.

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Merchandising: Exclusives for ‘Once’ and ‘It’

Retailers had plenty of exclusives lined up for Sony Pictures’ Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Warner’s It: Chapter Two for their Blu-ray release Dec. 10.

For Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Target offered a $24.99 Blu-ray with a pack-on replica of a film magazine that focused on the fictional career of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the film.

Walmart’s ‘It’ Double Feature Blu-ray

Walmart had a $22.96 Blu-ray with pack-on postcard replicas of posters of the character’s fictional movies.

Packaging for both the Target and Walmart versions was similar in that they had a slipcover with artwork of the exclusive prominently displayed, and the Blu-ray-cased sized exclusive on the back of the case under the shrinkwrap.

Best Buy offered a Steelbook version of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack for $32.99.

Best Buy’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Steelbook

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For It: Chapter Two, Target offered $5 worth of free popcorn and candy with the purchase of the film in any format.

Walmart had an exclusive Blu-ray double feature of the two “It” films for $27.96.

Best Buy’s offered a Steelbook edition of the It: Chapter Two 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for $34.99.

Best Buy’s ‘It: Chapter Two’ Steelbook

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Target seems to have instituted a new policy regarding DVD and Blu-ray returns. In addition to the standard of only exchanging opened titles with copies of the same title, Target’s computers might allow unopened titles to be exchanged only for a store gift card and not a refund to the original payment method. A clerk at one store didn’t know if this was a temporary change tied to Black Friday promotions or a permanent policy.

Merchandising: Mixed Reviews for Best Buy’s ‘Infinity Saga’ Set

Best Buy Nov. 15 released its exclusive The Infinity Saga collection of the first 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe films, from Iron Man to Avengers: Endgame. The pricey set included the films in both Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, plus digital codes for each, in collectible display packaging and an exclusive bonus disc with never-before-seen deleted scenes from several of the Marvel films.

Limited to about 4,000 units available at $549.99 each, the collector’s set quickly sold out, with copies showing up on secondary markets such as eBay commanding asking prices well above $1,000. Some online reviews of the set, however, indicated poor quality control both in the assembly of the set and the shipping of it, with reports of damaged boxes and missing movies. The discs themselves come in paper sleeves, with some reviewers reporting glue from the packaging seeping onto the discs.

It should also be noted that the set does not include the 3D versions of any movies that had been released on disc in 3D, and extra bonus discs from the earlier movies also were not included.

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Dec. 3 Best Buy had a piece of another massive collector’s set, that being Fox’s The Simpsons: The Complete Seasons 1-20 Limited Edition. The 79-DVD set (no Blu-ray, even though some of the seasons were released in the HD format) was reportedly limited to a run of just 1,000 units, with copies available through Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart. Each retailer’s website had the boxed set listed for a $499.99 sale price the day prior to its official street date.

The 19th season, which aired in 2007 and 2008, also arrived on DVD for the first time Dec. 3, completing the run of the first 20 seasons. The show is currently in its 31st. Fox in 2015 announced it wasn’t releasing any more “Simpsons” DVDs, at a point when it had released discs of just seasons one through 17 and season 20. Season 18 was released on DVD in 2017 following fan demand for more discs.

Based on the producers’ statements in 2015, and rumors swirling that Disney may end the series (which it purchased as part of its acquisition of the 20th Century Fox studio and catalog) after 32 or 33 seasons, the next DVD or Blu-ray release of the series could possibly be a complete-series set a few years from now, if such a disc release is even contemplated at all. The first 30 seasons of the series are available for streaming on the new Disney+ service.

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The biggest disc release of Dec. 3, however, was HBO’s “Game of Thrones” eighth-season and complete-series releases.

For exclusives on the eighth season set, however, HBO committed one of the biggest pet peeves among collectors — splitting exclusive featurettes among different retailers — as opposed to offering a variety of packaging options or pack-on collectibles, with any bonus content consolidated with one retailer so fans who just care about having all the available content aren’t tempted to buy the same release twice just for a few extra minutes of bonus material that isn’t offered anywhere else.

Best Buy “Game of Thrones” season eight exclusive sigil box art

For Game of Thrones: The Complete Eighth Season, Target offered the Blu-ray at $39.99 with an add-on “How the Storm Was Born” featurette, taking a look at the making of the penultimate episode and the razing of King’s Landing.

The featurette was included on a separate disc packed onto the standard season eight case.

Walmart’s exclusive bonus disc with the Blu-ray offered the featurette “From Renderings to Reality: The Visual Effects of Season 8.” The chain had it at $37.96 with the same packaging as Target, a separate thin Blu-ray case packed with the regular season eight Blu-ray, but availability was spotty from store-to-store, with some locations not even bothering to put any of the week’s new titles on shelves even into the evening of Dec. 3.

Interestingly, the VFX featurettes for the first seven seasons are included on the bonus disc with the Game of Thrones: The Complete Series Blu-ray. So fans who buy the complete series and want that final VFX featurette will have to buy a second copy of season eight separately.

Best Buy offered the season-eight Blu-ray with exclusive three-eyed-raven sigil box art for $44.99.

 

Black Friday Musings

I ventured out on Black Friday not so much in search of bargains (all right, maybe a new laptop at Best Buy) but to see if there were any significant differences at retail from prior years.

The biggest change, on the home entertainment front, is that the buying process has become a lot more complicated than simply squeezing in past other shoppers to snatch that prize TV, Blu-ray Disc or video game.

I went to Best Buy with my 21-year-old middle son to pick up some of the advertised video game specials as gifts for my youngest. By 3 p.m., the time we arrived, both of the games we were looking for had sold out.

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I turned my attention to the laptops — and when I finally rousted up a clerk, he told me yes, the item was in stock, and to wait right there until he could find it.

I waited 10 minutes, which to me is a lifetime, and then walked out. While walking, I found the exact same laptop, at the exact same price, on Amazon and clicked the “Buy Now” button.

Our next stop was Walmart — a place I avoid due to new security measures I consider intrusive. Let me explain: in the hopes of begin more environmentally sensitive, California no longer lets retailers bag items in free, single-use plastic bags. Instead, consumers have the option of buying much heavier plastic bags for a dime apiece (I know — I don’t see the logic here, either). As a result, some customers, me included, skip the bag and just hold our purchased items in our hands.

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At the same time, Walmart began introducing automated checkout stands, with the customer rather than a clerk scanning the items and processing payment.

That lethal combination prompted the retailer to install security personnel at exits to check receipts — which often results in a long line.

No thank you.

Anyway, back to Black Friday. The traditional DVD “dump bins” were as crowded as always, while the good stuff — new releases as well as video games — are now in locked glass cases. We found the video games we were looking for — but finding a clerk to unlock the case proved futile.

Again, Amazon to the rescue.

Once again, we walked out empty-handed.

Best Buy Offering Third-Party Retail Pick-up, Subscription Tech Service, Lease-to-Own Options

Entering the winter retail season, Best Buy is diversifying its consumer electronics footprint and contact points in an effort to meet changing consumer habits.

As previously reported, the nation’s largest CE chain is offering free next-day shipping on myriad items through Christmas — a practice launched by Amazon Prime earlier this year.

Indeed, Best Buy saw domestic online revenue increase 15% to $1.4 billion in the most-recent fiscal period. As a percentage of total domestic revenue, online revenue increased 15.6% versus 13.8% last year.

To better facilitate consumers’ schedules, the chain launched 175 alternate pick-up locations in areas where either store locations are not convenient or the ship-to-home option is not desired. Locations include UPS stores and CVS pharmacies in select markets. Best Buy is also offering curb-side delivery in New York.

“To build awareness of these expanded experiences, we have already kicked off a comprehensive local market marketing campaign that includes stores, train stations, billboards, digital and email,” CEO Corie Barry said on the Nov. 26 fiscal call. “Based on our data, we believe there is much uncapped opportunity to serve New York clients in their homes.”

Best Buy has expanded its in-home Geek Squad concept to subscription-based “Total Tech Support,” providing unlimited Geek Squad support for all household technology no matter where it was purchased.

A new pilot program includes router setup and installation, parental controls to manage every device on the network, a subscription to Microsoft Office 365, and 1 terabyte of cloud storage along with all the standard Total Tech Support benefits.

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“It continues to get strong customer reviews [2 million registered subs] and members spend more and are twice as likely to use other services than non-members,” Barry said. “We are building on this early success to continue to deliver more benefits our members are asking for.”

The chain has also borrowed from the rent-to-own market, rolling out a proprietary lease-to-own option on select big-ticket items. The option is now fully operational in 45 states, including California and New York.

Barry said that since bowing the program nationally in March, about 65% of lease-to-own consumers are either new to Best Buy or haven’t made a purchase in the last year.

“This provides another purchasing option in addition to our existing strong credit card offer allowing us to help customers make purchases they might not otherwise be able to,” she said.

Best Buy Q3 Entertainment Revenue Plummets

Best Buy can’t wait for the winter holiday retail season.

The nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer Nov. 26 said third-quarter (ended Nov. 2) domestic entertainment revenue dropped nearly 21% in same-store sales compared to a gain of 12.4% during the previous-year period. International entertainment sales fell 31% compared to a gain of 10.8% last year.

The entertainment segment includes DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs and computer software.

Entertainment represented 5%, or $448 million of domestic revenue, compared to 6%, or $525 million during the previous-year period.

International revenue represented 5%, or $40 million of same-store sales, compared to 7%, or $58.3 million last year.

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Domestic revenue increased to $8.96 billion, up 2.4%versus last year. The increase was driven by comparable sales growth of 2% and revenue from GreatCall, which was acquired in Q3 last year, partially offset by the loss of revenue from store closures in the past year.

The largest comparable sales growth drivers were appliances, headphones, tablets, services and computing. These drivers were partially offset by declines in the gaming and home theater categories.

“We are excited about our holiday plans,” CEO Corie Barry said in a statement. “Customers ordering online will get free next-day delivery on thousands of items all season long with no membership or minimum purchase required. They can also choose to pick up their products in a store within an hour of placing their order.”

Indeed, domestic online revenue increased 15% to $1.4 billion due to higher average order values. As a percentage of total domestic revenue, online revenue increased 15.6% versus 13.8% last year.

As the holidays loom, Best Buy is offering free next-day delivery on myriad items, excluding bigger and heavier items such as big-screen TVs and refrigerators.

With the service “Store Pickup,” customers can get their order ready within an hour at their local Best Buy. Best Buy reports 40% of online sales are picked up in stores.

Merchandising: The ‘Discovery’ of Exclusives

A couple of retailers had exclusive editions for the Nov. 12 new releases.

Best Buy had a version of Paramount’s Blu-ray release of Star Trek: Discovery — Season Two in Steelbook packaging for $39.99.

Target’s ‘The Big Bang Theory: Season 12’ Blu-ray box art

Target offered the Blu-ray of The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Twelfth and Final Season with exclusive box art for $32.99. The store didn’t offer the regular edition on its shelves, so buyers who wanted to standard box art were out of luck.

Target’s ‘The Angry Birds Movie 2’ Blu-ray with sticker book

Sony Pictures’ The Angry Birds Movie 2 at Target was offered in a Blu-ray combo pack with a 24-page activity book with stickers for $22.99.