Big Retail Looks to Counter Amazon Prime Days With Steep Discounts

When Amazon pushed back its annual Prime Days e-commerce sales event from the summer to Oct. 13-14, big box competitors were faced with a decision: counter the online behemoth’s signature event that generated more than $7 billion in sales last year with competing discounts, or wait until November’s Black Friday, the industry’s traditional retail event the day after Thanksgiving.

They’re doing both.

Big box chains such as Target, Walmart and Best Best Buy are launching Black Friday-type discounts this week on select big-ticket consumer electronics, toys, clothing and gaming items in an effort to lure consumers with contactless retail, including curbside delivery of both in-store and e-commerce transactions in the COVID-19 era.

Target is bowing “Deal Days,” and Best Buy is offering early access to select Black Friday deals during the same Prime Days period. Walmart, which recently launched its own retail subscription program to compete with the Prime membership, began its “Big Save Event” on Oct. 11 (at 7 p.m. ET) through Oct. 15.

Walmart is offering 21% Off JVC 32-inch class HD Roku Smart LED televisions, 32% of Samsung Smart Watches, $100 Off Beats Solo Pro Wireless headsets, 24% Off Roku Streaming Stick.

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Best Buy is marketing a 70-inch Samsung 4K HD Smart TV for $529.99. It will also sell laptop computers priced at $119.99 as part of the early sale.

“This will be a holiday season like no other, and we want to help our customers shop how, where and when they want,” Best Buy spokesman Keegan Shoutz told USA Today. “This year, that means helping them start their shopping early, by starting our Black Friday deals earlier than ever before.”

Target said it would offer deals on “hundreds of thousands of items across its electronics, toys, beauty, and home departments,” including offering contactless drive-up and order pickup on many items. Indeed, fast-forwarding Black Friday discounts enables chains to promote their enhanced safety protocols while minimizing the traditional long lines and crowded malls in November.

“There are so many unknown variables this year,” Tyson Cornell, head of the U.S. consumer markets group at PwC, told The Washington Post. “By kicking off sales in October, [retailers] are hoping to spread consumer traffic and demand over the next few months, helping them maintain social distancing in stores, consistently move inventory and adjust their strategies based on early consumer demand.”

James Zahn, senior editor of trade magazine Toy Insider, said the stampede mentality of the past, with doorbusters sales and Black Friday deals every weekend, is being replaced by earlier, season-long discounts.

“We’re in a health crisis, so retailers are having to rethink how they get products into families’ hands,” Zahn said.

NPD: Pandemic, Delayed Amazon Prime Days Will Upend ‘Black Friday’ Retail Holiday

The traditional Black Friday weekend start of the holiday shopping season is in disarray this year, upended by the coronavirus pandemic and Amazon’s rescheduling of its Prime Days from the summer to October, The NPD Group said Oct. 9.

Amazon rescheduled its Prime Days to Oct. 13-14 — just 44 days before Black Friday on Nov. 27.

Last year, the Amazon Prime Days e-commerce sales extravaganza was the third-largest online shopping period, after Thanksgiving’s Black Friday and successive Cyber Monday retail events, according to The NPD Group.

This year’s delay to mid-October promises to significantly alter the winter retail landscape, say NPD analysts.

“Prime Days’ timing later in the year creates a pull to move aggressive holiday campaigns earlier, and opens the door for deals from retailers of all sizes,” Marshal Cohn, chief  industry advisor, retail, at NPD, said in a statement.

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Cohen said the infusion of Prime Days and other retail events into the holiday season is going to transform the balance of 2020 for consumers and retailers at all levels, in addition to industry analysts.

Stephen Baker, VP, industry advisor at NPD, says Prime Days is occurring at a time when most consumer electronics manufacturers will have already launched price discounts to jumpstart holiday shopping.

Baker said October is typically the weakest month of the year for technology sales, especially for premium technology items as manufacturers and retailers “re-merchandize and re-balance” older products for promotion while readying the newest technology for purchase. But with the pandemic, many CE manufacturers are delaying product launches.

“We are anticipating this to be among the biggest Octobers ever due to the need to elongate the holiday season and the lateness of some of the normal September product introductions (such as iPhones),” Baker said.

Indeed, Cohen contends Prime Days’ delay will further undermine consumer spending on Black Friday.

“Though it’s been evolving, don’t expect Black Friday to look at all like years past, and not just because of the consumer’s hesitancy to avoid crowds and their newfound fondness of shopping online,” Cohen said. “The infusion of Prime Days into the holiday season will play to this year’s emphasis on shopping early being better.”

Best Buy Bowing ‘Black Friday’ Deals Early Oct. 13-14

With retail turned on its head due to the coronavirus pandemic, Best Buy Oct. 8 announced it would jumpstart its annual Black Friday sales discounts for two days on Oct. 13 and 14. The consumer electronics retail giant will offer dozens of deals from its not-yet-released Black Friday ad.

The Black Friday retail holiday typically occurs the day after Thanksgiving with brick-and-mortar and digital stores looking to jumpstart the winter holiday shopping season. But with Amazon launching its annual Prime Day ecommerce event on Oct. 13, Best Buy is looking to crash the party.

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Showcase deals include a 70-inch Samsung 4K Smart TV for $529.99 ($220 off SRP); laptops starting at $119.99; and JBL wireless headphones priced at $69.99 (save $80). The rest of Best Buy’s Black Friday ad, which typically includes significant price cuts on DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies, will come later this month with a guarantee to reimburse customers if the price of sale items drops before Nov. 27.

In addition to in-store safety protocols, Best Buy is also offering contactless curbside pickup, store pickup, and same-day and next-day delivery options.

Amazon Prime Day Set for Oct. 13-14

Amazon Sept. 28 confirmed online scuttlebutt that it would hold its annual Prime Day e-commerce sales event Oct. 13 and 14. The news follows Amazon’s unveiling of a range of new and updated consumer electronics devices, including Luna online gaming system and controller, and globe-shaped Echo speakers.

Prime Day kicks off at midnight PT on Tuesday, Oct. 13, and runs through Wednesday, Oct. 14, for Prime members in the U.S., U.K, U.A.E, Spain, Singapore, Netherlands, Mexico, Luxembourg, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, China, Canada, Belgium, Austria, Australia, and — participating for the first time this year — Turkey and Brazil.

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Members can shop deals and products for the holiday season, including toys, TVs, electronics, home entertainment, fashion, beauty, kitchen, home, and Amazon Devices starting today and throughout the two-day epic deals event at amazon.com/primeday.

“In the midst of an unprecedented year, we’re committed to making this the most successful Prime Day ever for our small businesses and excited for Prime members worldwide to discover new ways to support local entrepreneurs and save big on everything they need and love,” Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer, said in a statement. “This year’s Prime Day is the perfect opportunity for Prime members to get their holiday shopping done early from the comfort of their homes — and to have more time to spend with their families and friends throughout the season.”

During last year’s Prime Day, Amazon said it sold more than 100,000 laptops, 200,000 televisions, 300,000 headphones, 350,000 luxury beauty products and more than 1 million toys — and in the process, generating more than $2 billion in sales for third-party retailers.

To further its support of small businesses during COVID-19 and beyond, Amazon is investing an additional $100 million in special Prime Day and holiday promotional programs, and beginning today through Oct. 12, Amazon will offer a $10 credit to use on Prime Day to members who spend $10 on items sold by select small businesses in Amazon’s store.

“Prime Day has become an indisputable shopping holiday, greatly benefiting online retailers that can attract consumers to their site through compelling email campaigns or offering value-add services like buy online, pick up in-store,” Jason Woosley, VP of Adobe’s commerce product division, told CNBC last year.

Walmart Increases Electronics Inventory, Plans to Start Holiday Sales Early

Walmart has increased inventory in electronics, with a focus on TVs, laptops and video games, in preparation for a holiday sales season that it plans to start early, the retailer says.

This also marks the first holiday season that physical media — DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and 4K Ultra HD — will be under lock-and-key in glass-walled display cases, a move the chain has taken over the past year for items that either command high prices (such as video game consoles) or can be easily stolen.

Walmart research showed 87% of customers who shopped the chain over the past six months say they plan to seek out deals and great prices earlier this year to better prepare for the holiday season, with one in three customers planning to start their holiday shopping before early November.

The retailer announced plans to address three key shopping trends expected for a unique holiday season: an increase in online shopping, evolving wish lists, and the need for a fast, easy and safe shopping experience.

“Over the past six months, our customers have been shopping differently, and we expect that will continue into the most important shopping season of the year — the holidays,” Scott McCall, EVP and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., said in a statement. “We’ve heard from our customers that many plan on starting their holiday shopping well before Black Friday and that they’re looking for gifts that fit their current lifestyle. So, we’ve adjusted our strategy to adapt to these new shopping preferences — we’re offering more of what they want now, earlier than ever, and all at the best prices.”

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Walmart is “promising an all-new Black Friday experience,” according to a press release, spreading traditional Black Friday savings throughout the season and will have more deals available online. More details will be shared soon, according to the press release.

To prepare for an expected increase in online shopping this holiday season, Walmart will hire more than 20,000 seasonal associates in its e-commerce fulfillment centers across the country, the company announced.

“The holidays are always a special time, and this year, we think the season will mean even more to our customers. As more of them turn to online shopping, we want to ensure we’re staffed and ready to help deliver that special gift to their loved ones while continuing to fulfill our customer’s everyday needs,” Greg Smith, EVP for supply chain for Walmart U.S., said in a statement. “We’re also proud to be able to continue to provide employment opportunities across the country when it’s needed most.”

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In addition to electronics, the retailer is increasing availability of unexpected holiday gifts that reflect lifestyles in the “new normal,” according to the company. They include merchandise in athleisure, loungewear and sleepwear for the family, outdoor grills, bicycles and exercise equipment, outdoor sporting equipment, pet items and kitchen items.

Over the past six months, the retailer has taken steps to help ensure a safe in-store shopping experience for both its customers and associates, which will continue through the holiday season, according to the company, including:

  • Reduced Store Hours: Walmart stores, Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets will continue to be closed to customers overnight to give associates extra time to clean and sanitize stores and stock shelves.
  • Required Face Coverings: Associates and customers will continue to be required to wear masks or other face coverings while in Walmart stores.
  • Sneeze Guards: Plastic barriers will remain in Walmart pharmacies, at checkouts and at other points of sale to distance customers and associates.
  • Traffic Management: To manage customer flow and traffic, Walmart has vestibules divided into separate entrances and exits, social distancing floor decals and airs overhead announcements urging proper hygiene and the need to socially distance.

 

Other initiatives include:

  • Contactless pickup and delivery services such as pickup and delivery on more than 160,000 items that can be picked up or delivered as soon as the same day; express delivery on a wide assortment of items delivered within two hours, pending eligibility and customer location; and free next-day or free two-day shipping on online orders of more than $35, pending eligibility and customer location.
  • Contactless payment in stores: Customers can pay in a Walmart store contact-free on any register when using Walmart Pay via the Walmart app.
  • Walmart+ benefits: Customers can also sign up for a Walmart+ membership for $98 a year. With the membership, they receive unlimited free delivery from stores (including on gifts, such as electronics and toys), fuel discounts and access to tools such as Scan & Go that lets customers scan their items as they shop and pay using Walmart Pay.

NPD Expects 18% Increase in Winter Holiday CE Sales

In a year where consumer electronics and home technology have played a key role for house-bound families due to the coronavirus pandemic, new data from The NPD Group suggests fourth-quarter CE sales will increase 18% compared with the same period in 2019.

The second quarter of 2020 saw healthy gains in categories associated with learning and working from home, as consumers across the U.S. outfitted their home offices with the equipment needed to maintain productivity. Gains in home entertainment categories were notable as well, as consumers looked for ways to fill time while at home for an extended period. High growth categories included: notebook computers (+45%), tablets (37%), monitors (+84%), printers (+59%), and keyboards and mice (62%).

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“Sales of items we need to get through the school or workday took priority in the first half of this year, but as we head into Q4 and the holidays we expect many of these ‘needs’ will have been satisfied and consumers will begin to purchase items they consider to be ‘wants’ or gifts for the holiday season, such as TVs and noise-canceling headphones,” Ben Arnold, executive director, industry analyst, for The NPD Group, said in a statement.

Arnold said that while the typical Q4 shopping list won’t differ much from previous years, how consumers buy will, due to ongoing concerns regarding social distancing. According to NPD Checkout data, in Q2 e-commerce represented 69% of consumer technology sales, up from 48% during the same time last year, and that number is expected to remain above 60% moving forward. Additionally, buying online and picking up in-store accounted for about 25% of online tech sales in Q2, as consumers shifted to new ways of purchasing accelerated by COVID-19.

“Black Friday lines won’t disappear, but we expect lines of consumers waiting for store openings will be replaced by long queues of cars eagerly waiting for [online] purchases to be placed in their vehicle,” said Stephen Baker, VP, industry advisor for The NPD Group. “As we head into Q4 and into 2021, we’re forecasting technology sales will remain strong as the pandemic has renewed recognition of the critical value of technology in the modern lifestyle, sped-up product upgrade cycles and created larger installed bases that will benefit the industry moving forward.”

Walmart to Close on Thanksgiving, Ending Longtime Black Friday Tradition

Walmart July 21 announced it would not be open on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26 — typically the beginning of the retail behemoth’s annual Black Friday retail holiday. The decision also affects Sam’s Club locations.

Walmart has been a perennial home entertainment retail leader over the Black Friday holiday, which typically began with special deals on Thanksgiving.

The decision was in tandem with corporate announcing plans to spend $428 million on special cash bonuses to store, club, distribution center and fulfillment center associates for their ongoing contributions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The bonus will be $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 for part-time hourly and temporary associates. Drivers, managers and assistant managers in stores, clubs, DCs, FCs, and health and wellness will also receive a bonus.

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“We know this has been a trying year, and our associates have stepped up. We hope they will enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day at home with their loved ones,” John Furner, CEO of Walmart U.S., said in a statement. “We are certainly thankful to our people for all of their efforts.”

Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations will operate normal hours on Wednesday, Nov. 25. Information for store and club hours on Friday, Nov. 27 (a.k.a. Black Friday) will be shared at a later date.

‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ Emerges Atop 2019 Black Friday Sales Derby

The Black Friday post-Thanksgiving sales rush saw Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Far From Home in its ninth week on disc return to No. 1 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Nov. 30.

The superhero movie was originally released on disc Oct. 1 and hasn’t been the top title since its debut week.

No. 2 on the overall disc sales chart and No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart was Warner’s Aquaman, selling 85% as many copies as the top title in its 36th week on disc. Aquaman is the year’s second-best selling title, according to VideoScan.

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No. 3 overall (No. 10 on the Blu-ray chart) was Warner’s Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, in its 17th week of availability.

The No. 4 overall seller and No. 2 Blu-ray was Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.

Warner’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, in its 38th week, was No. 5 overall and No. 14 on the Blu-ray chart.

The No. 4 Blu-ray, and No. 13 overall in its 16th week, was the year’s top-selling title, Disney’s Avengers: Endgame.

The No. 4 Blu-ray was Warner’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which was No. 17 overall in its 14th week.

The week’s top newcomer, and the only new release to crack the top 50 as a result of deep-discount sales pushing older titles back up the charts, was Lionsgate’s Angel Has Fallen, which was No. 15 overall and No. 11 on the Blu-ray chart.

Angel Has Fallen is the third film in the “Fallen” trilogy featuring Gerard Butler as a U.S. Secret Service agent who fights off terrorists threats against the American presidency — following 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen and 2016’s London Has Fallen. The actioner earned $69 million at the domestic box office.

Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 60% of first-week Angel Has Fallen sales, with 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray comprising 12% of its total sales.

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Angel Has Fallen was the top title on the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Dec. 1, pushing Paramount’s Dora and the Lost City of Gold to No. 2.

Universal’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw slid to No. 3, with Universal’s Good Boys at No. 4 and Disney’s The Lion King remake at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 11-30-19
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 12-1-19
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 11-30-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 11-30-19
Sales Report for Week Ended 11-30-19
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 12-2-19

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.

Video Games, Hardware Spearhead Record Online Black Friday Sales

Sales of soccer-themed video game FIFA 20 and NFL-based Madden 20 helped drive record online sales on post-Thanksgiving Black Friday (Nov. 29), according to new data from Adobe Analytics. The Nintendo Switch console ranked among the most-popular online purchases — as it has all year in the video game market.

Adobe said consumers spent $7.4 billion online, which trails only the all-time $7.9 billion spent a year ago on Cyber Monday. The software giant, which tracked the majority of Web retailers, is projecting $9.4 billion in online spending on Cyber Monday (Dec. 2) this year.

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Consumers tallied 39% of Black Friday e-commerce transactions and 61% of online traffic from their mobile phones.

Adobe said online Thanksgiving sales topped $4.2 billion, upped 14.5% from the previous-year period.

Regardless, of the e-commerce boom, more than 165 million people are projected to frequent retail stores from Thanksgiving through Dec. 1, according to the National Retail Federation.

“They’re making it easy for you to purchase however you want to purchase, whether it’s going into the physical store, ordering online and picking it up or ordering it online and having it shipped to you,” Sucharita Kodali, analyst at Forrester Research, said in a statement. Forrester partnered with Adobe on the data.