Walmart's cure for a short holiday shopping season: Start the deals early

Key Points
  • Walmart says it's kicking off holiday deals "earlier than ever," starting this Friday at midnight ET.
  • The retailer cites the fact that there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
An employee works on a display ahead of Black Friday at a Walmart store in Chicago, November 20, 2018.
Kamil Krzaczynski | Reuters

Retailers are well aware that this year's holiday shopping calendar isn't kind. But shoppers might not be.

There are six fewer days to stock up on gifts between Thanksgiving and Christmas — making for the shortest possible holiday season.

Walmart is trying to make the most of this situation by encouraging shoppers to start checking items off their lists this week. It's advertising holiday deals "earlier than ever," starting Friday at midnight ET.

On its website, the retailer says shoppers will find deals on electronics, toys, home goods and sporting accessories, including $25 off a BouncePro 7-Foot My First Trampoline, $30 off the Farberware 3.2 Quart Digital Oil- Less Fryer, and $100 off a VIZIO 55-inch Class M-Series Quantum 4K Ultra HDR Smart TV. It says new deals will be dropped throughout the season.

This also marks the first holiday season that Walmart is offering free next-day delivery, something it started to roll out earlier this year, taking a blow at Amazon's Prime membership perks. It says it now reaches roughly 75% of American consumers with this option, beating its goal to reach that many people by the end of 2019.

Best Buy on Tuesday announced it will offer free next-day delivery on thousands of items, including tablets, headphones and espresso machines, for the holiday season. Big-box rival Target bulked up its delivery options in June, using its Shipt platform, where shoppers can now pay a flat fee of $9.99 per order to have a selection of thousands of items shipped same day.

Walmart, meanwhile, says it will try to make it easier for shoppers to find gifts this year, by adding a new Gift Finder tool to It also is launching a new digital toy catalog on Nov. 1. And it says it will have express checkout available in stores for shoppers to hopefully avoid lines and pay with an employee on his or her tablet.

A recent study from Deloitte found good deals matter more than anything else, especially around days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Eighty-one percent of people said promotions influence their purchase decisions this holiday season. The firm also found free shipping is more important than fast shipping for shoppers, with 85% saying they want the former, and 15% the latter.

Similar to past holiday seasons, Walmart also says it will be holding events, starting Nov. 2, themed around characters from Pokemon, Star Wars and Frozen. It's all part of the company's bid to draw more kids and their parents to stores.

The National Retail Federation has said it expects holiday retail sales, for November and December, to increase between 3.8% and 4.2% this year. It did, however, cite "uncertainty over trade" as a potential drag on the season.

Walmart shares are up about 28% this year. That's better than the S&P 500 Retail ETF's gains of about 6.8%.

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