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Target steps up online push for holidays

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Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Target is rolling out a service that allows customers to order products online and then pick them up at its stores as the discounter seeks to cater to tech-savvy, time-pressured customers.

Target said Wednesday that the service is now in about half of its 1,800 U.S. stores and will be expanded to the rest of its U.S stores by Nov. 1. The discounter is joining other retailers including Wal-Mart Stores, Best Buy Stores and Sears Holdings that have had similar services for a couple of years.

Target, based in Minneapolis, also said that for the first time it will launch a TV ad campaign on Dec. 1 through Dec. 3 specifically focusing on Cyber Week deals including Cyber Monday. Marketers started promoting the Monday after Thanksgiving as "Cyber Monday" in 2005 to push people to shop online.

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Target, like many merchants, has had a bumpy road leading up to the crucial selling season, which accounts for anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of retailers' annual revenue.

While the job and housing markets are recovering, the improvements haven't been enough to sustain increased spending among shoppers. The partial government shutdown, which lasted 16 days, has also hurt retailers, particularly in areas with large military bases.

Kathee Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising at Target, noted a slowdown in sales in the regions where there is a heavy military presence.

(Read more: Wal-Mart to open up to 110 new China stores)

"It's been a very choppy year. Certainly, the shutdown didn't help," Tesija told The Associated Press Wednesday.

Target is hoping that a combination of strong advertising and hot products will get shoppers to spend.

Target is launching a holiday campaign that its Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jones calls "its most digitally enabled effort" ever. The campaign, starting Nov. 1, was inspired by a Twitter hashtag: #mykindofholiday and offers more than 20 TV commercials that center on how people are increasingly spending the holidays in untraditional ways. It will extend to radio, catalogs, online and social media.

(Read more: Naughty or nice? FedEx reveals holiday forecast)

Target is also bringing social media into its stores and its catalogs. Starting Nov. 18, Target will highlight about 100 holiday products across all areas of its stores that have been trending well on Pinterest. It will also make reference to Pinterest in its holiday catalogs. Pinterest is a content sharing service that allows people to "pin" images and videos to a digital "pinboard."

For the second holiday season in a row, Target will be extending its holiday price match policy beyond its usual seven-day window. If a customer purchases an item at Target between Nov. 1 and Dec. 21, and then finds it for less at Target.com, a local rival's printed ad or a select online retailer like Amazon.com, then Target will match that price.

—By The Associated Press

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