Wal-Mart is gearing up for the holiday season this year with plans to invest even more in the in-store shopping experience. For Wal-Mart, that means parties.
The big-box retailer plans to hold more than 20,000 parties at its stores over the next two months, with the first event, called "Toys That Rock," taking place nationwide this Saturday.
Wal-Mart's other events will include "Parties That Rock" and "Gifts That Rock," where attendees can receive curated gift guides and toy catalogs. Its overarching holiday marketing campaign this year is dubbed "Rock This Christmas," the company announced Wednesday.
"While we're shipping a whole lot of advertising to the omnichannel experience, we don't want to let the store experience get lost in that," Tony Rogers, chief marketing officer of Wal-Mart U.S., said on a call with members of the media.
"We are investing in [stores] this year more than we ever have," Rogers said. "It's the most we've done in stores."
Wal-Mart made a significant push in 2016 to make its supercenters easier and more festive to shop in, bringing in "holiday helpers" for the first time and upping its amount of live toy demonstrations for kids and their parents.
This year, Wal-Mart is adding more holiday helpers, which guide shoppers to checkout lines, open additional registers during busy hours and fetch items from around the stores. The retailer will also increase the number of toy demos in stores to 165,000, and bring Santa Claus in again for selfies.
In another push, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart is expanding the number of items on sale this holiday season, both in stores and online. The company will triple its online assortment, according to Scott Hilton, chief revenue officer of Wal-Mart's U.S. e-commerce division. And more Wal-Mart shoppers are expected to ring up purchases online prior to picking them up in stores, Hilton said.
Wal-Mart this year will sell items from national brands that were not previously available, like Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Yankee Candle, and Bose in select stores and on Walmart.com. The company is calling for "more exclusives than ever before."
"This is our first holiday season with [free] two-day shipping [on orders over $35], and an expanded online grocery assortment," said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer of Wal-Mart's U.S. team. "It's the biggest and best year, yet, when it comes to merchandise."
Retail rival Target announced its holiday plans last month, which include rolling out a "GiftNow" option online, Weekend Deals, 1,400 new and exclusive toys, and free shipping running from Nov. 1 to Dec. 23.
Best Buy will also remove its free-shipping threshold of $35 through the holidays, as the electronics retailer expands same-day delivery to more markets.
Wal-Mart, though, is sticking to its $35 minimum for free shipping on online orders. The world's largest retailer also sat out of such a promotion — ditching a threshold, like Target and Best Buy — last year. In turn, Wal-Mart expects shoppers to either meet the $35 requirement, or make use of order online, pickup in store.
Wal-Mart has what it calls a Pickup Discount, which encourages customers with savings to shop online-only items, shipping them to a Wal-Mart store for free pickup.