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.

‘Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special’ to Bow on Apple TV+ for Holidays

Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special, an exclusive holiday program from multi-platinum, multi-Grammy award-winning artist Mariah Carey, will debut globally on Apple TV+ this holiday season.

The special — combining music, dancing and animation driven by a “heartwarming” story, according to Apple — is set to premiere on the heels of the 25th anniversary of Carey’s No. 1 holiday anthem “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” and will feature Carey and a lineup of guest stars.

Apple TV+ is available on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, select Samsung and LG smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices, as well as at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. The Apple TV app will be available on Sony and Vizio smart TVs later this year. For a limited time, customers who purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can get one year of Apple TV+ free. The offer is good for three months after the first activation of the eligible device. For more information, visit apple.com/tvpr.

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Best Buy Kicks Off Holiday Season With Free, Next-Day Delivery on Thousands of Items

As the holidays loom, a 99% of Best Buy customers can get free next-day delivery on thousands of items, according to the retailer.

The offer excludes some bigger and heavier things such as big-screen TVs and refrigerators.

Customers who ordered something, or live somewhere, where free next-day delivery isn’t available will still get free standard shipping on everything all season long, with no membership or minimum purchase required, according to the retailer.

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.

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Other offers include:

  • same-day delivery, which is available in 42 U.S. metro cities for orders completed on BestBuy.com before 3 p.m. local time (2 p.m. local time on Sundays);
  • “Curbside,” which lets customers pick up their tech without getting out of the car and is currently available in select markets across the country;
  • My Best Buy membership, allowing those who join access to sales, including being the first to access to Black Friday deals and, new this year, special access to save on Apple products;
  • and “Total Tech Support” membership, offering those who join unlimited support for all the tech and appliances, no matter where or when they bought them, as well as exclusive prices and discounts on services such as TV mounting, computer virus removal, appliance installation, Geek Squad Protection and AppleCare Products with internet security software also included at no extra charge for coverage on up to 10 devices (Starting Oct. 27, current Total Tech Support members can save $50 when they but it as a gift.).

 

The Best Buy Gift Center also offers ideas on thousands of the tech gifts.

‘Santa With Muscles,’ ‘Angela’s Christmas’ Among Titles Coming From Mill Creek for the Holidays

Mill Creek Entertainment will release a collection of holiday movies on disc and digital in November and December.

Making its Blu-ray debut Nov. 5, Santa With Muscles stars wrestler Hulk Hogan as an evil millionaire who gets amnesia during the holiday season and becomes convinced that he is Santa Claus. He uses his new identity to fight crime and bring good cheer to all good boys and girls.

Based on the children’s book Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela’s Ashes), comes Angela’s Christmas, a poignant story from the Oscar-nominated studio Brown Bag Films about the power of family and the innocent desire of a child to ensure everyone is safe, warm and loved at Christmas.  The Emmy-nominated title will come out on DVD Nov. 19.

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Also coming on DVD Nov. 19 is Down Home Christmas — 5 Movie Collection, which features Christmas-themed movies featuring top TV stars, and Elfette Saves Christmas, in which an elf named Elfette (Brielle Carter) finds her vacation in Florida cut short when there’s suddenly a Christmas emergency — Santa Claus (Quinton Aaron) has been kidnapped by the New York Mafia’s crime boss.

Finally, due Dec. 10 on DVD is Christmas on the Range. In the film, Kendall Riley (Erin Cahill) is finally about to succeed in turning her family ranch into a farm producing organic beef. But she is opposed every step of the way by her neighboring rancher Brick McCree. When Brick’s estranged son Clint returns for the holidays, he and Kendall hit it off, which only enrages Brick more.

Each of these titles also features a digital redemption on www.movieSPREE.com.

Report: Overall Holiday Sales Grew 5.1%

Holiday sales from before Thanksgiving through Christmas increased 5.1% to more than $850 billion this year — the strongest growth in the last six years, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse report, which covers overall retail spending trends across all payment types, including cash and check.

Online shopping also saw large gains of 19.1 percent compared to 2017, according to the report, which details holiday shopping from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24.

“From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and chairman of Saks Inc. “By combining the right inventory with the right mix of online versus in-store, many retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted via the right shopping channels.”

Poor weather did pose an issue during some primetime shopping periods, the study found. This included cold weather on Black Friday morning on the East Coast and wet weather conditions the weekend of December 15-16 on both the East and West coasts. Also, storms Dec. 21 in the East with storms impacted the final run of the season.

The findings are based on aggregate sales activity in the Mastercard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for certain other payment forms, such as cash and check.

‘Original Christmas Specials Collection’ With ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and More Available on Disc From Universal

“The Original Christmas Specials Collection: Deluxe Edition,” featuring five holiday classics including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Produced by the legendary Rankin/Bass, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970) and The Little Drummer Boy (1968) feature stop-motion animation. Also included are the animated Frosty the Snowman (1969) and Cricket on the Hearth (1967). The collection features the voice talents of Fred Astaire, Jimmy Durante, Mickey Rooney, Danny Thomas and Burl Ives.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town are also available individually on Blu-Ray and DVD.

The releases include new bonus features, including “The Animagic World of Rankin/Bass,” a new documentary celebrating the legacy of the holiday specials created by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, including interviews with filmmakers and historians; “Restoring the Puppets of Rudolph,” in which viewers discover how the puppets from the beloved special were restored; “Reimagining Rudolph in 4D,” a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the new Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer attraction film; the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Attraction Film,” a short stop-motion film originally created for a Rudolph 4D experience; “T.E.A.M. Rudolph and the Reindeer Games,” a video storybook including the untold story of the Reindeer Games; the Frosty the Snowman original pencil test; and commentaries on Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.

‘Scrooged’ Coming on Disc and Digital Nov. 19 From Paramount for 30th

The Bill Murray Christmas classic Scrooged will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital Nov. 19 for its 30th anniversary from Paramount Home Media Distribution.

In the humorous take on Charles Dickens’ classic tale, Murray stars as uncaring and unforgiving TV executive Frank Cross whose live production of A Christmas Carol is more important to him than any true meaning of Christmas. Before the night is over, he takes a journey through his past and into the future to find redemption.

The film also stars Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum and Alfre Woodard.

Target Offers Free Two-Day Shipping, Other Conveniences on Eve of Holiday Season

In a shot across the bow at online behemoth Amazon, Target Corp. announced it will offer free two-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items with no minimum purchase and no membership requirement beginning Nov. 1.

Free two-day shipping had previously only been available to customers who spent $35 or used a REDcard.

The chain also announced it will be the first retailer to offer same-day delivery and drive up service coast to coast.

“We want to make the busy holiday season easier for our guests so they can spend more time with their family and friends,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell in a statement. “From same-day delivery with Shipt, drive up, free two-day Shipping and more, no other retailer can match the convenient delivery options that Target will offer this season. When you combine these services with our incredible assortment of exclusive brands, everyday low prices and skilled team, I’m confident Target will be America’s easiest and most enjoyable place to shop for the holidays and beyond.”

During peak periods, if free two-day shipping is not available, Target will offer guests free standard shipping, the company announced. The retailer will offer guests free shipping through Dec. 22.

Consumers in markets across 46 states can have items delivered to their doorstep in as little as one hour with Shipt, Target announced. Guests place an order through the Shipt app or Shipt.com and choose from more than 55,000 Target products. Then, Shipt shoppers can head to a local Target store to complete the order and deliver it to the guest’s door.

The retailer also announced the expansion of its drive-up service to nearly 1,000 stores by the end of October. Customers can place an order in the Target app and have their purchases brought to their car by a team member. Orders are ready within an hour, according to Target, and are delivered to guests’ cars within two minutes of their arrival in the parking lot. Target is making more than 250,000 items available through the service.

Other services, according to Target, include:

  • order pickup, allowing customers to buy online and pick orders up in store on the same day for free;
  • Target restock, allowing customers to place orders for basics such as diapers, paper towels and pantry staples by 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and have them delivered the next day for a fee of $2.99 or at no charge for REDcard holders;
  • and delivery from store, allowing customers to shop in store at select urban locations and have their purchases delivered to their homes that day for a flat fee of $7 (available in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.).

 

Also for the holiday season, low-cost gifts will be highlighted at up to 30 displays throughout each Target store with canopies and signs, such as “Under $5, $10 or $15.”

In the wake of the Toys ‘R’ Us liquidation, Target is also expanding its toy section for the holidays.