It's beginning to look a lot like a
costly Christmas. Both Walmart and Target hope to humbug inflation, enticing shoppers with earlier deals, innovative experiences and new tactics to keep costs down.
They also announced hiring plans, with Target looking to add 100,000 seasonal workers and Walmart focusing on 40,000 seasonal employees. For Walmart, that's a steep decline from the 150,000 hires it announced last year, with many of those aimed at permanent positions.
Walmart says its research indicates more than half of consumers plan to begin shopping in earnest in October this year. So it's lowering prices, offering new and expanded returns options and an updated omnichannel experience.
"Saving our customers time and money is in our DNA,” said Tom Ward, Walmart's executive vice president and chief ecommerce officer, in the announcement. “I am proud of how we've innovated to offer exactly what our customers need this holiday – deeper savings across a broader assortment of gifts with a seamless omnichannel shopping experience."
Walmart says it's planning thousands of price rollbacks, with many in toys, home, electronics and beauty. It's extending return policies to cover longer periods. And for Walmart+ members, it's even offering to pick up the return items from people's homes -- no box or label required.
Target's promising shoppers a start on savings with an earlier-than-usual Deal Days promotion, beginning Oct. 6. That's also when it will kick off Target's Holiday Price Match Guarantee.
Both announcements come as retailers ponder tempered forecasts for the November through December sales period. Thanks to inflated prices, sales increases are a given. But they mask an unsettled outlook as consumers continue to adjust to a higher cost of living.
A marked change may be in ecommerce. A new analysis from Salesforce predicts online sales won't grow much this year.
"Digital sales will continue to dwarf pre-pandemic levels," Salesforce says in its forecast, up 55% globally and 61% in the U.S. at a three-year growth rate compared to 2019 sales. "However, they'll remain essentially flat compared to 2021, decreasing 2% globally and increasing 3% in the U.S."
All signs are pointing to an outlook that, while hardly bleak, is at least subdued. Walmart's more cautious approach indicates "holiday sales won't be terrible this year,” writes Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, in his note. “But a lot of growth will be driven by inflation, and underlying volumes will be down in many categories. This is a very different reality to 2021 when things were booming, and retailers were struggling to recruit enough staff to service demand."