Walmart, Kohl's Vow More Aggressive Marketing

Walmart and Kohls reportedwalmart disappointing third-quarter sales, and both chains are vowing to step up their marketing intensity in the weeks leading into the holiday season.

“This year, it’s all about trying to get the customers first,” Ashley Shih, managing director at IGS, a strategy consulting firm, tells Marketing Daily. “Stores are opening earlier, and making sure they put their best foot forward, to maximize whatever opportunities they have. And then they are following up with as many reasons as they can to make sure shoppers come back to them, whether it’s in stores or online.”

They are also doing a better job of addressing shoppers’ pain points, he says, citing Walmart’s announcement that it would distribute wristbands for certain items, freeing customers to shop without waiting in long lines.

Net sales for Walmart rose 1.6% to $114.9 billion, below analysts’ expectations. And comparable store sales fell 0.3%. Certainly, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer sounds bullish on its strategy: "The team has developed our best holiday plan ever. We are committed to being the number one retail destination," says Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president and CEO. "We're making sure our shelves are well-stocked with the most popular toys, and we're guaranteeing low prices all season in the store through the Christmas Ad Match Program." But it’s not expecting much, predicting flat comparable store sales for the quarter including the holiday.

And at Kohl’s, comparable store sales also fell, slipping 1.6%. Overall sales slipped to $4.4 billion, from $4.49 billion. Net income dropped 18% to $177 million, from $215 million in the same period a year ago.

The Menomonee Falls, Wisc.-based store says it, too, will up the marketing noise. “We have increased our marketing spending and improved its impact and reach in order to drive higher traffic to our stores and on-line,” says Kevin Mansell, Kohl's chairman, and CEO, in its release.  “Our customer will find the perfect gift for everyone on her shopping list at Kohl's and will be excited by the value she receives in both our only-at-Kohl's and national brands."

Shih says he is also encouraged that the emphasis on omnichannel shopping will also yield results this year. “Given that over half of the U.S. have smartphones now, consumers are effectively carrying around their storefront. While shoppers may be hopping from one chain’s physical store to another’s website, or vice versa, “stores are recognizing that they have to be available in anyway the consumers want to connect. So it’s good they are striving to be relevant on all channels.”

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