Walmart Bows Holiday Recipes, E-Commerce on Tastemade Streaming Video Service

Walmart is partnering with media company Tastemade to launch two special holiday episodes of the Daytime Emmy-nominated series “Struggle Meals” on Tastemade’s streaming network.

The episodes are Tastemade’s first brand partnership for the online series, and allow streamers to shop for holiday recipe ingredients using Walmart’s pickup & delivery service for delivery or curbside pickup. The first episode just launched, followed by the second episode, which will go live on Dec. 17th.

With the pandemic prompting more families to cook at home and prepare meals in advance, Walmart is focused on finding innovative solutions and partners to help streamline the process for people to get food on their tables. The streaming video episodes offer tips on how to cook inventive, better-for-you, minimum waste meals that aim to save time and money, while also alleviating the stress of holiday cooking and planning.

“Struggle Meals” is hosted by Chef Frankie Celenza and is one of Tastemade’s most successful shows to-date, garnering an audience of more than one million viewers per week cross-platform.

“Viewers will be able to easily shop all the ingredients for these amazing holiday recipes, while cooking alongside their favorite chef and enjoying delicious meals with their loved ones,” Mary Schulke, associate director, strategic partnerships at Walmart, said in a statement.

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Viewers have the opportunity to text an on-screen number from their phones to add ingredients from the featured recipes in the episodes directly to their Walmart shopping cart using Walmart’s pickup & delivery service.

In each episode, Chef Frankie offers techniques to cook Thanksgiving and holiday-themed meals, and shares tips to creatively use ingredients viewers already have at home to make delicious fare for their guests in addition to the main dishes. The Struggle Meals holiday edition features a unique take on bold holiday flavors, including dishes like Thanksgiving turkey burgers, cinnamon nutmeg doughnuts, tacos with holiday brisket, creamy butternut squash soup, and more.

“The holidays will look a little different this year, so with these special Struggle Meals episodes, we’ve partnered with Walmart to help consumers prepare delicious meals that will save time and money, and that will allow for more time to be spent with friends and loved ones – whether that’s virtually or in-person,” said Jeff Imberman, Head of Sales & Brand Partnerships at Tastemade.

The episodes will air on Tastemade’s streaming network, on the newly launched Tastemade en Español streaming channel (with Spanish subtitles). These episodes will also be available on Struggle Meals’ YouTubeSnapchat, and Facebook, and Tastemade’s FacebookInstagram, and TikTok.

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.

Analyst: 11% of Americans Subscribed to ‘Walmart Plus’ 14 Days After Launch

About 11% of Americans signed up for “Walmart Plus,” the $98 annual subscription program aimed at competing with the Amazon Prime membership, just 14 days after launch. Citing data from a survey of 20,179 respondents, research firm Piplsay found that 35% of respondents had a favorable impression of the platform, with another 38% saying they believe Walmart+ will be competitive with Amazon Prime.

The findings are significant since they suggest broad consumer appeal and the possibility Walmart would expand the platform’s appeal with streaming access to movies, TV shows and music — now available on Prime Video and Prime Music.

Walmart+ bowed offering subscribers the ability to “scan-and-go” purchasing in stores and discounts on gas. Other features cited favorably by survey respondents included free shipping (35%) on orders over $35, same-day/24-hour deliveries (24%) and pricing (5%). The platform is $21 cheaper than Amazon Prime on an annual basis.

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Notably, 45% of respondents said they subscribe to both Walmart+ and Amazon Prime; 36% said it was their first retailer subscription service and 19% said they were dropping Amazon Prime for Walmart+. Another 60% of men think Walmart+ will be a big threat to Amazon Prime as compared to just 40% of women. Among those interested, about 36% of millennials and Gen Xers have taken both Walmart Plus and Amazon Prime subscriptions. About 56% of Gen Zers are excited about the mobile scan-and-go feature as compared with 44% of Gen Xers.

“Walmart Plus is taking on Amazon Prime in what is the biggest online retail battle to hit the U.S. in recent times,” read the report.

Merchandising: Walmart Offers ‘Wonder Woman’ Gift Set; New Best Buy Steelbooks Include ‘Fury Road’

Walmart is selling an exclusive Blu-ray/DVD gift set of Warner’s 2017 superhero movie Wonder Woman that includes a wallet and slap bracelet for $14.96. It also comes with an $8 coupon for the sequel, WW84, whenever it opens in theaters (good through 2021).

The DVD catalog section at Walmart also offers a selection of Universal monster movies on DVD for $14.96 each with limited-edition glow-in-the-dark slipcases and exclusive Vudu digital copy.

Universal monster movie DVDs with glow-in-the-dark slipcases at Walmart

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Best Buy’s new Steelbooks for Sept. 29 include Warner’s Mad Max: Fury Road 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack for $29.99.

Best Buy’s ‘Evil Dead 1&2’ Steelbook

There are also two new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack Steelbooks from Lionsgate: 1978’s Halloween at $19.99, and an Evil Dead 1&2 double feature for $24.99.

Best Buy is also running a buy-two-get-one-free promotion covering dozens of titles, including Universal’s 1917 on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, and Parasite and The Photograph on Blu-ray.

Federal Judge Blocks Trump’s TikTok Ban in the U.S.

With President Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order banning social media video app TikTok in the United States set to go into effect Sept. 27, a federal court judge in Washington D.C. has reportedly approved a preliminary injunction blocking the order.

Chinese-based TikTok owner ByteDance Sept. 23 filed for an expedited preliminary injunction against Trump’s executive order, calling it politically motivated and lacking in merit. The Trump Administration, which is involved in ongoing trade and ethnic Muslim disputes with China, argued the TikTok app posed a threat to national security. TikTok reportedly has more than 100 million U.S. users on a monthly basis.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols, who was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2019, reportedly felt TikTok had not been given the proper time to defend itself in court.

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“This was a largely unilateral decision with very little opportunity for plaintiffs to be heard,” said the judge as reported by the Washington Post.

Trump had initially given his public approval (in a North Carolina campaign rally) for a proposed TikTok asset sale to Oracle and Walmart. But when it was revealed that Oracle and Walmart would collectively own just 20% of new entity TikTok Global, with China controlling 80%, Trump changed his mind.

This is the second legal setback for Trump, who saw a second executive order banning China’s WeChat app overruled by a San Francisco federal magistrate, which cited First Amendment issues in ruling against the president.

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.

Trump Wants Oracle/TikTok Deal, Which Now Includes Walmart, to Include $5 Billion for Educational Programs

President Trump has big plans for TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media app and video platform currently in sale talks with Oracle — and Walmart.

Speaking Sept. 19 at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., Trump said the proposed executive order banning TikTok in the United States had been delayed a week so the reported $20 billion sale of TikTok in the U.S. by parent ByteDance to Oracle and Walmart could be finalized. The retail behemoth had previously been associated with a joint bid with Microsoft that had been rejected. TikTok has about 100 million users in the United States.

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Under the proposed deal reported by CNN Business, which needs to be approved by Chinese regulators, TikTok would relocate its headquarters to Texas, hiring 25,000 workers in the process. More importantly, TikTok would store user data on Oracle servers rather than on the current Chinese-based servers — which had prompted initial concerns by the Trump Administration over cyber and national security.

“I’ve given the deal my blessing,” Trump said. “If it gets done, that’s great. If they don’t that’s OK, too.”

It’s been reported that Trump is seeking $5 billion from the “TikTok Global” transaction to help fund an educational project the president claims “can educate people as to real history of our country — the real history, not the fake history.”

Both Oracle and Walmart — as publicly held companies — are not legally obligated to fund Trump’s educational project.

Trump is proposing the fund in response to the “1619 Project,” which was started by The New York Times in 2019 on the 400th anniversary of slavery in the United States. The project aims to put consequences of slavery and contributions of black Americans as its main theme but has been criticized by historians.

Trump previously tweeted that planned rollout of the “1619 Project” in public schools in California would not be supported by the federal government.

“Department of Education is looking at this,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “If so, they will not be funded.”

TikTok Owner Picks Oracle as ‘Trusted Tech Partner,’ Rejects Microsoft/Walmart Bid

ByteDance, the Chinese owner of social media video app TikTok, has reportedly selected Oracle Corp. to acquire its U.S. operations as a “trusted tech partner.” The deal, which must be approved by U.S. and Chinese regulators, amounts to a high-priced partnership rather than outright asset sale, according to media reports.

Beijing-based ByteDance had previously rejected a joint offer by Microsoft and Walmart, Microsoft disclosed in a Sept. 13 blog post. The amount of the software and retail giants’ bid has not been disclosed. The offer by Oracle reportedly hovers around $20 billion.

“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s U.S. operations to Microsoft,” the software giant wrote. “We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests.”

TikTok has emerged into a social media phenomenon during the coronavirus pandemic generating upwards of 100 million users monthly watching both self-generated and third-party videos. It has also come into the crosshairs of the Trump Administration, which considers the app a national security threat, among other concerns. Trump has warned the government would ban the app in the U.S. by Sept. 15 unless it was sold to an American company.

Specifically, the National Security Agency and United States Cyber Command claim that Chinese control of TikTok’s computer code could influence distribution of propaganda and politically-motivated content to end-users.

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Microsoft said it would have made the required security, privacy and online safety adjustments to appease both federal and Chinese regulators. The Xbox manufacturer said it would have taken steps to prevent the spread of disinformation on the app — something it made clear to ByteDance.

“We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas,” Microsoft wrote.

Whether Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s personal relationship with Trump played a factor in the deal remains to be seen. Ellison has hosted a fundraiser for Trump, and Oracle CEO Safra Catz worked on Trump’s transition team in 2016.

Merchandising: Steelbooks Galore After Labor Day

Several Steelbook editions of new and catalog titles hit shelves Sept. 8, and not just at Best Buy, which is best known for offering the exclusive packaging variant.

Best Buy offered the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook of Lionsgate’s Ghost in the Shell at $19.99 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the anime movie.

A few titles from Universal Pictures also made their way to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at Best Buy via the Steelbook, at $22.99 apiece: 47 Ronin, 2020’s The Invisible Man, and the 60h anniversary re-release of Psycho.

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Best Buy also offered an exclusive edition of Warner’s animated Superman: Man of Tomorrow, but it wasn’t a Steelbook. Best Buy offered a $29.99 gift set of the film that paired the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack with a figurine of the Parasite character.

Best Buy’s ‘Superman: Man of Tomorrow’ with Parasite figurine

To get Man of Tomorrow in Steelbook packaging, fans had to head to Target, which offered the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of the movie in the collector’s packaging for $19.99 (though the box art was the same as the standard release).

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Another Steelbook offered through Target was Lionsgate’s Rob Zombie Trilogy Blu-ray set at $29.99, containing House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and 3 From Hell.

Target’s ‘Rob Zombie Trilogy’ Steelbook

Target also offered an exclusive Jojo Siwa Party Pack at $19.99, a three-DVD bundle of Nickelodeon’s “Jojo Siwa” programs

Target’s ‘Jojo Siwa’ bundle

Speaking of Nickelodeon, Amazon had the Paw Patrol: Jet to the Rescue DVD Sept. 3, before other stores stocked in Sept. 8.

Walmart Bows $98 Subscription Program — Without Free Access to Movies, TV Shows and Music

Walmart Sept. 1 unveiled a much-hyped “Walmart+” $98 annual subscription program aimed at competing with the Amazon Prime membership. While the $12.95 monthly program, which goes into effect Sept. 15,  is $21 cheaper than Prime (over a year), Walmart’s platform lacks key Prime features such as streaming video, music and digital books, among other perks.

Walmart said the aforementioned features found on Prime could be added over time. Some observers had felt Walmart would bundle Vudu.com to the subscription service. Instead, the world’s largest retailer sold the platform to NBCUniversal’s Fandango.

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What Walmart+ does offer is free same-day shipping on myriad store items (over $35) that can be shipped from more than 4,700 stores nationwide; a 5 cents per gallon gasoline discount; and the ability to scan items on the Walmart app and pay without waiting in line.

Calling it the “ultimate life hack,” Walmart said the platform would replace “Delivery Unlimited,” currently available in about 1,000 stores. Walmart’s e-commerce business grew 97% in the most-recent fiscal period to $10 billion.

Chuck Grom, retail analyst with Gordon Haskett Research Advisors, cautions that consumers have been inundated with subscription programs this year, including Disney+, HBO Max and Peacock. He wonders whether the appetite for another plan exists.

“The jury is still out on the ultimate potential of this new offering,” Grom wrote in a note.

Walmart has launched other tech features, including a disc-to-digital platform with studios that enabled users to buy digital codes of their DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies. The program was subsequently offloaded to Vudu, which then allowed users to obtain digital codes from their home.