Walmart creeps on Christmas with promo deals before Halloween

Photo: Walmart
Oct 24, 2019
George Anderson

Talk about your Christmas creep. Walmart announced yesterday the launch of special early deals for Christmas on to get a head start on the selling season, which is six days shorter this year because of when Thanksgiving falls. 

Walmart’s Early Deals Drop will kick off at midnight on October 25 with discounts on a wide variety of consumer electronics, home, sporting goods, toys and video gaming products.

“Our price leadership is strong and growing, and we’re excited to deliver savings for all of our holiday shoppers,” said Steve Bratspies, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S. “Saving our customers time is also paramount at this time of year, especially with fewer days to get ready for big family meals, parties and gift giving. We’re making sure this season is the easiest yet for our customers with nine tech-enabled ways to shop for everyone on their list — when and how they want.”

The nine ways Walmart is looking to make it easier for customers to shop this holiday season start with existing services such as free two-day shipping, Pickup Today, Online Grocery Pickup and Delivery.

The chain has also added gift finder to its site. The tool provides shoppers with gift options for 40 different types of recipients based on variables of age, gender, price and product category. Visitors provide information about the recipient and types of gifts and the finder displays products that fit the criteria.

A new feature this holiday season is a scannable toy catalog. Shoppers using iOS devices will be able to scan items listed in Walmart’s digitized toy catalog that is dropping on Nov. 1 and buy the toys using their Walmart app. The retailer claims that it will have more than 150 exclusive items for sale heading into the Christmas holiday season.

Another new service that Walmart is offering this year is free next-day delivery on orders of $35 or more on eligible items. The retailer announced in May that it planned to make its NextDay service available to about 75 percent of American consumers by the end of the year. It faces competition from and Best Buy, which offer free next-day delivery, as well.

Walmart has expanded its Check Out With Me to all its supercenter locations. The service allows associates to check customers out of the store without going to a checkout. The chain began testing the service in May 2018 at garden centers in 350 of its stores. Heading into the Christmas season, associates will be able to check customers near the front end, in the consumer electronics department and in Santaland located in supercenter’s garden center.

Shoppers not finding what they want in Walmart’s stores are not out of luck. The chain has expanded its DotCom Store, which allows associates to place orders for a product not available in Walmart’s supercenters. Orders can be shipped to the customer’s home or sent to the store for pickup.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Walmart be rewarded for its decision to start its Christmas sales before Halloween? How will competitors react? Do you think Walmart has things covered with its “nine tech-enabled ways to shop”?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Putting forth online deals early is one smart approach to making up for the lost sales from a compressed Christmas season."
"I am looking at this another way. I think the Halloween season is turning out to be a dud. Party City is running a sale!"
"Having the sales and using the electronic choices are going to help sales whether or not they are labeled as being for the holidays."

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18 Comments on "Walmart creeps on Christmas with promo deals before Halloween"

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Mark Ryski

Walmart is getting the jump on the selling season, and they’re throwing everything they have at it. Walmart is covering a lot of ground with their nine tech-enabled ways to shop and no doubt these efforts will all contribute to delivering what I expect to be a strong holiday season for Walmart. Like with all arms races, the biggest competitors – Target, Kohl’s, Amazon – will all respond with their own versions of offers, events and programs for the critical holiday selling season, but it pays to be first.

Neil Saunders

Although some customers will complain about the holidays creeping earlier, this is a smart move by Walmart. There are many shoppers who like to spread purchases for budgeting reasons. By getting in early Walmart will be hoping to gobble up some share before other players move into holiday mode.

Casey Golden
3 months 3 days ago

I agree budgeting has begun and consumers are thinking about holiday even if it seems too early. However, reporting on “holiday” selling and allocating transactions to the strategy, it will be more difficult to validate the uptick.

Art Suriano

Walmart continues to do many things right, which is why they remain unbeaten. Starting holiday shopping early with offers is smart because the old mindset of: “I start Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving” ended years ago. People today are busier and have less time. Christmas shopping, unfortunately, is viewed by many as a burden, which is why gift card sales continue to increase. Here Walmart is providing everything imaginable to help the consumer buy a gift and to get it quickly. It doesn’t get better than that. As we get closer to the holidays, Walmart will see great value with more customers using these excellent, convenient services. I’m sure other retailers will catch on as well.

Jeff Sward

At this point, holiday selling is not just about Black Friday and Christmas. It’s about the sum total of November + December. And six less shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a big deal. A retailer looks at the calendar and asks the simple question, “How do I make up for the lost 6 days?” November was already chock full of promos. Which means the creep into October was inevitable, even if not with Christmas-specific ideas. And wait until Alibaba comes to the U.S. with some version of their 11/11 Singles Day event tailored for this market. That might cause a ripple or two also. At some point the day count between Thanksgiving and Christmas won’t matter. It will be Halloween + Thanksgiving + Christmas. Happy “holidays.”

Ken Morris

Walmart’s brand and image cannot be remedied by technical solutions or strategic sales. The brand is synonymous with inferior products, unattractive stores and underpaid associates.

Starting Christmas promotions early only strengthens their image as a company where profit is the only criteria for success.

Compare them to a retailer such as L.L.Bean or Costco who sell quality products, pay their employees a livable wage and treat their customers with respect.

In the long run, which model builds customer loyalty?

Jeff Weidauer

There’s really no downside to Walmart’s strategy. Some people will complain about Christmas creep, but they will probably be first to engage. Walmart has done an excellent job of hitting all the relevant points for holiday shopping, and competitors will be scrambling to keep up now that the line has been drawn.

Doug Garnett

I expect this to turn out to be a smart move for Walmart. Online buyers like to get ahead of the rush by making their Christmas purchases early.

The lost six days before Christmas are a serious problem for all retailers. While I don’t advise major in-store promotions prior to Halloween, putting forth online deals early is one smart approach to making up for the lost sales from a compressed Christmas season.

Ryan Mathews
Walmart will no doubt be rewarded for starting holiday sales before the frost is on the pumpkins — in the short term. But as a long term strategy, this creep to a perpetual holiday season worries me. Best Buy has moved “Black Friday” up to October and announced free next-day delivery. Now Walmart moves to open the “holiday” season before Halloween. I can’t wait until Amazon announces its new “Christmas in September” offers. Once the line before Halloween is crossed, what’s next? My local Ace store already has Christmas items on display and has had them there for weeks. I’m not being sentimental here about the over-commercialization of the holidays. But I am asking, where does it stop? If we move to a holiday selling season that effectively begins with Amazon Prime Day in July and doesn’t end until Super Bowl Sunday or President’s Day, (O.K., maybe that’s a stretch,) haven’t we just established perennial discounting and an abundance of “free” services as the New Normal? Consumers aren’t stupid. They understand that when a Walmart… Read more »
Cathy Hotka

Customers want to get great deals for Christmas at any time of year, but ix-nay on the carols and bell-ringing Santas. Let’s have some nuance.

Paula Rosenblum

I am looking at this another way. I think the Halloween season is turning out to be a dud. Party City is running a sale! That’s crazy. So they may well have given up on Halloween anyway.

Bob Phibbs

In many ways this mirrors my post why retailers should display holiday merchandise before Halloween. Any money you are able to get from a shopper early is money competitors will not be able to access.

John Karolefski

Christmas creep in stores has always annoyed me. I was once in a Kmart where there were promotions for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas — at the same time. Sure, getting the jump on competitors is possible. Getting sales early is better than missing sales later. But some shoppers aren’t amused. Do merchants care?

Ed Rosenbaum

Smart decision. The calendar helped make it an easier one. This shows Walmart intends to be the unquestioned leader in setting the tone for the season. Others will follow. That’s a given.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Probably. Those who try to get a handle on holiday season stress by doing tasks early will be very happy to see the early sales and other convenience moves. Competitors have already been having sales whether or not they are labeled as Christmas sales. Personally I prefer not labeling them as Christmas sales or activities until after Thanksgiving. However, having the sales and using the electronic choices are going to help sales whether or not they are labeled as being for the holidays.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

The nine new tech-enabled ways to shop will certainly enhance customer experience and drive sales. I’m just not a fan of Christmas creep.

Craig Sundstrom

When (practically) your whole strategy is EDLP, does a “Xmas Sale” really have any meaning? Perhaps, though clearly not as much as say, at Nordstrom, which makes (made?) a point of publicizing events as few and far between, so let’s just try and find a positive focus. They’re giving shoppers options as to when they’ll shop for the Holidays … those who need to save up all year to buy an $18.95 toy will appreciate the chance to secure one early, the rest can just go directly to the grocery section.

Ricardo Belmar

I’d say Walmart took one look a the calendar and the shortened Christmas shopping season and made this an easy decision. Will it pay off? Probably but mostly because they beat other retailers to the punch, not so much because consumers are looking for or expecting early holiday shopping deals.

I suspect many consumers are tired of this Christmas creep. Walmart is effectively using technology to make shopping with them easier, but if I put on my shopper hat, their stores still look the same as they have, it’s not easy to find something, not easy to check out — at least that is the perception.

So the real question is, will these nine new tech-based ways to shop help eliminate that image and therefore encourage new customers to shop with them? I think the answer again is yes, but only until other retailers start to creep along with them. At that point, the technology stops being the key differentiator and the overall shopping experience takes over on shopper sentiment.

"Putting forth online deals early is one smart approach to making up for the lost sales from a compressed Christmas season."
"I am looking at this another way. I think the Halloween season is turning out to be a dud. Party City is running a sale!"
"Having the sales and using the electronic choices are going to help sales whether or not they are labeled as being for the holidays."

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