Amazon, Walmart (Et Al.) Lure Shoppers With 'Black Friday In July' Discounts

Smack in the slack of summer doldrums — retail sales unexpectedly declined 0.3% in June and May’s advance was downgraded to 1.0% from 1.2% — two major retailers are unveiling their inner “have I got a deal for you” personas today.

“To combat shopping ennui, Amazon is celebrating its 20th anniversary by offering more discounts starting at midnight than it offers on Black Friday,” writes Shan Li for the Los Angeles Times

From a 32-inch TV for $75 to a Husqvarna self-propelled lawn mower under $300 (you save $199.01 even if you can’t pronounce the name), Amazon actually kicked off PrimeDay with a “sneak peek” press release yesterday. But the deals are only available to its $99-a-year Prime members.



“Not to be outdone, Wal-Mart on Monday announced its own rival one-day sale — also on Wednesday,” Li continues, with more than 2,000 online-only discounts. “For at least 30 days, the retailer said, it also is slashing the minimum order to qualify for free shipping to $35 from $50.” 

Amazon’s website for Prime members this morning is a festive billboard for “lightening deals,” as well as 40% off offers on select Kindle and Fire devices, classic toys like Barbie and Crayola crayons and you-really-shouldn’t enticements such as variety packs of Goldfish. And if you missed Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” the first time around, it’s a $4.99 download for Prime members ($5.99 for the hoi polloi).

“Thousands of New Rollbacks!” reads the type atop this morning. “No upfront fees. Pick up as soon as today.” Included in the “dare to compare” deals are an Apple iPad mini 2 for $265 (“was $429”), a Disney Frozen Skating Anna Doll for $10 ($24.97) to remind us that coolness soon will prevail and a Shark Easy Spray Steam Mop for $20 ($49).

The two rivals jibed each other with blog posts and statements, as Lauren Walker reports for Newsweek.

“We've heard some retailers are charging $100 to get access to a sale,” Fernando Madeira, CEO, wrote Monday. “But the idea of asking customers to pay extra in order to save money just doesn’t add up for us.” 

“We’ve heard some retailers are charging higher prices for items in their physical stores than they do for the same items online,” responded Amazon Prime AP Greg Greeley, Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson reports, adding that Walmart denied doing so. 

Other retailers are jumping into the hot-air fray as well. Best Buy has  “Black Friday in July” slotted for July 24 and 25. Kohl’s has a “one-day sale featuring 50% off specials” today. Target’s sale ended on Monday.

“Specialists said that many retailers are offering sales as a defensive tactic, afraid of losing market share to Amazon. A major promotion in July also serves as a way to boost sales in an otherwise slow month and clear out leftover inventory,” writes Tara Luna for the Boston Globe.

“You’re watching the birth of yet another retail commercialized holiday,” Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group, tells Luna.

One way retailers can compete with Amazon is to capitalize on the assets they have that Amazon doesn’t, writes John Pincott, Shopatron’s SVP Europe & Global Marketing, in an e-mail. 

“Retailers with both an online and brick-and-mortar presence need to start using the inventory in their stores to their advantage. Offering items for immediate pickup (without a $99 membership fee) and shipping from stores to shoppers' homes (rather than letting the inventory sit in a marked-down heap in the store) can boost efforts to stack up against Amazon's online commerce perks,” Pincott says. 

Meanwhile, “the American consumer retreated in June, dashing hopes for a more pronounced second-quarter upswing in spending and leaving companies less upbeat about the economy,” writes Bloomberg’s Michelle Jamrisko in a story about the Commerce Dept. stats on retail sales that were released yesterday.

“Sales fell at clothing stores, furniture outlets and auto dealers after gains the previous month, evidence of stop-and-go demand that’s keeping the economy from gaining steam. The data help explain the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy approach of waiting for a sustained pickup in growth before raising interest rates, which may happen as soon as September.”

But some observers are optimistic. 

“Buoyant consumer confidence, solid employment, low gas prices, and firmer wage growth should support stronger household outlays in coming months,” according to Oxford Economics lead U.S. economist Gregory Daco, reports Jeffry Bartash for MarketWatch.

As Marketing Daily’s Sarah Mahoney reports, the International Council of Shopping Centers expect strong back-to-school results this year based on a survey that found 67% of consumers indicating they plan to spend more this year than last.

And if last year is any guide, it’s less than two months to the start of the Christmas Shopping Season.

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