How Walmart & Target Are Upping Their Game Amid a Shortened Holiday Season

Walmart and Target are beginning the fight for holiday shoppers.

With six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to 2018, making for a short holiday season, Walmart is kicking off its seasonal promotions earlier than ever. The retailer announced it will begin offering discounts on holiday gifts such as toys and electronics beginning at 12 a.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 25, almost a week ahead of Halloween.

Competitor Target, meanwhile, will wait until November to begin highlighting its holiday discounts, CEO Brian Cornell said at a media event Wednesday.

However, December sales are still top of mind for the chain. Because there is one less weekend for consumers to get their buying done, Target is planning to increase the number of workers in its stores and offer more overtime to employees, to maximize the limited shopping time. As a result of those staffing plans, the retailer said it will spend $50 million more on payroll for the fourth quarter than it did in 2018.

Last year’s holiday season was good to Walmart and Target: Both posted strong sales for the fourth quarter, even though holiday sales on the whole had a below-average gain of 2.1%.

In Q4 2018, Target reported that same-store sales shot up 5.3%, with retail store sales increasing 2.9% and digital sales jumping 31%. Meanwhile, Walmart saw a nearly 70% year-over-year increase in profits, as its e-commerce sales soared by 43% while comparable-store sales rose 4.2%.

For 2019, the National Retail Federation predicts a solid rise in holiday spending. It forecasts an uptick of between 3.8% and 4.2%, with overall retail sales increasing in the range of $727.9 billion to $730.7 billion.

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