Wal-mart and target announce plans to win your holiday shopping dollars – the washington post

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By Sarah Halzack October 29 Follow @sarahhalzack

Wal-Mart and Target on Thursday offered the first peeks at their holiday season playbooks.

Wal-Mart said that it will cut prices on thousands of tech gadgets, toys, baking equipment and other items starting Sunday. And although the chain has long rolled back prices for the holiday season on that early date, executives emphasized that this year they were going to “do without high-low pricing gimmicks


.”

“This focus on consistent pricing means that we won’t have as many ‘this weekend only’ offers that tend to frustrate customers,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandise officer for Wal-Mart U. S. “At Wal-Mart you won’t need a crystal ball to guess when the next big sale will be.”

It seemed to be an acknowledgment from the big-box retailer of a crucial change in our shopping patterns: The center of gravity is spreading away from Black Friday.

As an example of the kinds of deals shoppers might start to see, Bratspies cited the retailer’s offering on the iPad Mini 2, which had been marked down to $268 in September but will be further discounted to $199 on Sunday.

Target, meanwhile, plans to make its seasonal offer of free shipping on all orders starting Sunday, a gambit it tried for the first time last November and December that led to a surge in online traffic and actual purchases. Best Buy, too, has recently said it will offer free shipping on all orders.

Wal-Mart, however, said it does not plan to match the profit-eating free-shipping offers. Instead, it will offer free shipping only on orders over $50, as it does the rest of the year.

The holiday plans by both big-box retailers are aimed at catering to customers who increasingly want to blend the online and in-store shopping experiences.

Target is partnering in some cities with Curbside, a third-party service that, as its name implies, allows shoppers to place an order online and pick it up at their local Target without setting foot in the store.

Wal-Mart will release a new mobile check-in feature on its app this season. For customers who opt to buy an item online and pick it up in store, they can check in as they are entering the store to let employees know they have arrived. The idea is that this will allow shoppers to get in and out more quickly.

As part of its ongoing effort to create a friendlier, more service-oriented environment in its stores, Wal-Mart also said it will have an area in many stores where children can get photos taken with Santa. The retailer also will be spinning Christmas tunes and encouraging employees to add seasonal touches to their attire, something the retailer has not done in recent years.

Wal-Mart and Target have not announced what time their stores will open for Thanksgiving weekend or what special deals will be offered during that time. Another retail heavyweight, Macy’s, said Thursday that it will kick off its bonanza of in-store deals at the same time it did last year: 6 p. m. on Thanksgiving Day.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post’s national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.

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