NEW YORK — Retailers from Walmart Stores Inc. to Limited Brands Inc.’s Victoria’s Secret are unveiling Black Friday deals earlier than ever or using such attention-getters as teen heartthrob Justin Bieber to lure more holiday shoppers.
Holiday-season sales are crucial for retailers across the board, since they represent the industry’s biggest quarter in terms of both sales and profit. Here are highlights of how national stores are gearing up and their strategies to lure shoppers:
Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, said it will open its big Black Friday promotions in toys, games and apparel at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year. The retailer cited customer demand as the reason for pushing up the sales times.
The retailer’s closely watched electronics deals will also be available earlier, at 10 p.m. instead of midnight, featuring promotions such as a 60-inch Vizio LED TV for $688, a $310 savings.
Walmart also said that for the first time it will guarantee pricing and availability before Christmas on three electronics items – the 16GB Apple iPad 2 with Wi-Fi for $399, which includes a $75 Walmart gift card; the Emerson 32-inch 720p LCD TV for $148; and the LG Blu-ray Player for $38 – for all shoppers who are in line between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., even if the store sells out of its stock.
“Walmart is positioned well for the holidays,” analyst Joe Feldman of Telsey Advisory Group told MarketWatch. “We like the company’s approach.”
Sears, Toys ‘R’ Us, Kmart
Sears Holdings Corp. will open its namesake chain at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, ahead of its normal opening on Black Friday. Toys “R” Us stores will open at the same time; the first 200 shoppers in line at each Toys “R” Us store Thanksgiving night will get a free goody bag. Toys “R” Us, which unveiled a hot-toy reservation feature this holiday, requires that reservation be made in person in stores.
Perhaps the earliest doorbusters of the season will begin at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving, when Kmart will begin selling high-definition plasma TVs for $199.99. The retailer has stayed open on the holiday for the past 21 years but only recently began offering Black Friday discounts a day early.
“Over the years, the day has become bigger and more important,” said Andy Stein, Kmart’s interim chief marketing officer. “We’ve evolved from being open for last-minute Thanksgiving dinner needs like tin foil and gravy to doing doorbusters at 6 a.m.”
Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy
Target Corp. announced its stores would open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Following the footsteps of Macy’s and Nordstrom Inc., Kohl’s also said it’s testing whether it can fulfill and ship online orders directly from its stores and expects the initiative to be “very beneficial” come next holiday. For Macy’s and Nordstrom, that option is part of their online strategy this holiday season, analysts said.
Getting the online piece right is crucial for retailers as more spending shifts to that channel, especially with the popularity of mobile devices. U.S. online sales this holiday season are expected to jump 15 percent to $68.4 billion with the average U.S. shopper spending an estimated $419 online, a 12 percent boost from last year, according to national retail estimates.
Retailers also are trying to preempt and combat the phenomenon of shoppers using their smartphones to comparison shop and use stores as so-called showrooms. Best Buy Co. and Target Corp., for instance, said they will match prices with select online retailers this holiday season.
While stores are making it more convenient to shop, products and marketing remain key for some chains in particular. Kohl’s, which generated more than half of its third-quarter sales from products only available at its stores, recently introduced a limited edition collection created by designer Narciso Rodriguez. The company, like Macy’s, said it also will increase new product shipment in December to excite shoppers. Kohl’s customers also can shop the more than 500 Early Bird specials available on Kohls.com starting on Wednesday.
Target this holiday season partnered with Neiman Marcus to unveil a collection of more than 50 gifts from 25 designers including Jason Wu and Marc Jacobs.
Victoria’s Secret, the biggest sales and profit contributor to Limited Brands, will broadcast its annual fashion show in partnership with CBS, on Dec. 4.
The $12 million show, featuring models in winged and flower costumes wearing things from Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy Push-up bra to the new Designer Collection for sale in stores, was led by supermodel Adriana Lima, who just gave birth in September. To excite interest, Bieber, Rihanna and Bruno Mars also performed during the show in New York.
Sustaining that fantasy is key to Victoria’s Secret. The lingerie chain, after having led Limited to outpace the rest of the industry in monthly sales consistently, reported disappointing October sales growth.