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Amazon, Target, Walmart Invest for Cutthroat Season

Amazon, Target and Walmart are all in when it comes to investing for the peak season.

The holiday rush is apparently in full swing as consumers willing to spend worry about getting purchases on time amid supply chain disruptions. The Consumer Confidence Index rose in October to 113.8, up from 109.8 in September, after a three-month downward trend, The Conference Board said Tuesday.

“The proportion of consumers planning to purchase homes, automobiles, and major appliances all increased in October—a sign that consumer spending will continue to support economic growth through the final months of 2021. Likewise, nearly half of respondents (47.6 percent) said they intend to take a vacation within the next six months—the highest level since February 2020, a reflection of the ongoing resurgence in consumers’ willingness to travel and spend on in-person services,” Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said.

What’s more, of the 42 percent of Americans in a recent Pitney Bowes Boxpoll survey who have started holiday shopping, the average consumer has already completed 38 percent of their holiday purchases.

Gen X and millennials were the most likely to pull purchases forward, according to Pitney Bowes. Forty-two percent of Gen X respondents said they plan to finish their online holiday shopping by the week of Black Friday, and another 10 percent during the week of Cyber Monday. Similarly, 43 percent of millennials plan to finish their online holiday shopping by the week of Black Friday, and another 14 percent during the week of Cyber Monday.

The data indicates that consumers are heeding reports and warnings to shop early to avoid getting caught empty-handed. And retail’s dominant players are stepping up with new customer-friendly options.

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Target

Updates at Target center on pickup and delivery convenience.

“Our guests love the convenience of our same-day services, and we’ve seen tremendous growth in these offerings over the past year, driven by continued investments in our amazing team members and our stores,” Mark Schindele, Target’s chief stores officer, said. “With even more flexibility in these options this holiday season, we’re ready to make our guests’ Target runs easier than ever.”

In a new option called Shopping Partner, Target now allows customers to send a proxy, such as a friend or family member, to retrieve their Drive Up or Order Pickup order. Consumers using Backup Items, meanwhile, can designate a secondary, backup item option for food and beverage pickup—excluding adult beverages—on Target.com or in the Target app. Available only through the Target app, the Forgot Something feature lets users tack on additional items after they’ve already placed their fee-free, contactless Drive Up or Order Pickup order, similar to how Instacart works.

Shoppers can take advantage of the more than 18,000 assigned spaces for curbside pickup. Target has also expanded the assortment and personalized store selection for same-day delivery with Shipt. Items include apparel and accessories for men, women, children and infants, Ulta Beauty products, electronics, toys and new this year, adult beverage items.

Target has more than 300,000 employees ready to execute the peak season, has tripled the number of store fulfillment roles over the past two years, and has trained thousands of in-store experts to enhance shop-in-shop collaborations and other merchandise categories.

As consumers get an early start to holiday shopping, Target and Walmart are focused on how to make pickup and delivery more convenient.
Three new functionality features for pickup and delivery from Target. Courtesy Photo

Walmart

At Walmart, consumers will find extended delivery hours, “meaning drivers will be making deliveries from stores to doors until 10 p.m. local time. This allows customers to place orders up to 6 p.m. for same-day or next-day deliveries,” Tom Ward, senior vice president of Last Mile at Walmart U.S., wrote in a company blog post. The retailer is also giving customers additional time to amend their placed orders.

Walmart also has a new feature this season called Shopping and Delivery on the Spark Driver app. In case existing delivery time frames are filled, the service can be accessed to give outside providers the option to shop and deliver customers’ orders.

“As always, customers can pay $7.95 – $9.95 for a one-time delivery and an additional $10 fee to get their order in two hours or less with Express delivery. Walmart+ members will continue to have access to unlimited free deliveries all season long. For Express delivery, Walmart+ members simply pay the Express fee,” Ward said.

Walmart also has expanded the items available for local delivery, including oversized items from more than 2,800 stores such as bicycles and 70-inch TVs. In addition, alcohol is now available for pickup from 3,000 stores and for delivery from 1,500 Walmart stores.

Walmart said all U.S. store locations will close for Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 25. Pickup and delivery services will operate as usual the day before, and the services will resume at 12 p.m. local time on Black Friday.

Amazon

Amazon has been preparing for the holidays since New Year’s Day, John Felton, Amazon’s senior vice president, global delivery services, wrote in a company blog post.

The e-tail juggernaut has hired even more people and invested in technology to help it predict what products customers will want, as well as where and when they’ll want to receive them.

To ensure it has the right supply chain and transportation network in place, Amazon invested in people, aircraft, ships and buildings to build flexibility into operations, as well as a network of partnerships to get the right items to the right places when customers need them.

In its global logistics organization, Amazon increased ports of entry across its network by 50 percent, doubled its container processing capacity and expanded its ocean freight carrier network partnerships to secure committed capacity into critical ports.

The Seattle company also expanded its Amazon Air cargo fleet, which now has more than 85 aircrafts, to ensure ample capacity to transport customer packages across longer distances over shorter timeframes. Furthermore, its Amazon Fright network has a pool of more than 50,000 trailers that haul freight across the world. “These trailers are powered by tens of thousands of small businesses that collectively employ tens of thousands more drivers to make these shipments possible,” Felton said.

Amazon now has more than 800 delivery stations globally, employing tens of thousands of people who ready packages for the delivery. The delivery network grew to over 260,000 drivers worldwide across Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner program, supported by hundreds of thousands more Amazon Flex drivers, Felton said.

“These investments have also allowed us to provide customers with even more options for fast delivery. Last-minute shoppers have access to millions of items available with faster than Same-Day Delivery—with orders arriving in as fast as five hours from click to doorstep in 15 metro areas,” Felton added.