Consumer Nation

Toys 'R Us Sweetens Holiday Loyalty Program

Toys ‘R Us is bringing back a popular loyalty program from last holiday season, and now it plans to sweeten the deal even further for customers who spend more than $200 between Oct. 30 and Dec. 24. 

This offer is yet another sign that retailers will be dangling plenty of promotions in front of customers, hoping to get them to hit their stores early and often this season.

On Monday, Wal-Mart Storesannounced it would offer customers a price guarantee in the form of gift cards to U.S. shoppers who buy something at their store and then find it cheaper somewhere else.

At Toys ‘R Us, members of the loyalty program will receive 10 percent back on purchases they make between Oct. 30 and Christmas Eve. And for those customers who spend more than $200 during that period, there are additional coupons that will be sent to their email during the course of 2012, which will add up to an additional $100 in savings on select merchandise.

Last year, about 2 million customers signed up for the Rewards ‘R Us program during the holiday season to take advantage of last year’s 10 percent promotion. About 24 million customers have signed up for the loyalty program since it was introduced in 2008.

Typically, Rewards ‘R Us members receive $5 back for every $150 they spend using their Rewards card during specified three-month periods.

Using Layaway to Woo Consumers

The holiday promotion is only the latest step Toys ‘R Us is making to woo customers. Earlier this month, the retailer announced that it would expand its layaway program in the vast majority of its stores.

Layaway allows consumers to reserve items with a deposit and pay for them over time.

Toys ‘R Us said consumers who select layaway also would be eligible for the loyalty program rewards.

Walmart and several other major retailers also offer layaway. Walmart’s program began on Oct. 17, and the company said it is meeting its expectations so far.

“Given the state of the economy, we’ve seen much more promotional intensity, and gimmicks as well,” said Walmart Chief Merchandising Offer Duncan Mac Naughton, during a conference call Monday.

Promotion-Heavy Holiday Online

Even online there is an expectation for a promotion-heavy holiday season.

In a recent survey conducted by BigResearch for, a retail trade group, about nine in 10 online retailers said they plan on offering free shipping at some point during the holidays. That’s up from 84.8 percent of online retailers who responded this way in 2010.

Those free shipping offers also will come earlier in the holiday season compared with last year. About one-third of the online retailers said they would offer free shipping earlier than they did last year. Many online retailers also will have more money to spend on these promotions.

About 56.3 percent of the 51 online retailers BigResearch surveyed said their budget for free shipping promotions is either “somewhat” or “significantly higher” than last year.

According to's eHoliday survey, about 68 percent of the retailers they surveyed expect their online sales to rise by at least 15 percent or more this year.

That's good news for shipping companies. On Monday FedEx said it expects holiday shipmentsto rise 12 percent and it will add about 20,000 workers to handle the extra volume.

Analysts said the surge in volume at Fedex is being driven by a combination of gradual economic improvement as well as increasing e-commerce sales.  

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