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Walmart Rolls Out Holiday Plan Ahead of Halloween

Halloween’s still a week away but the holiday season will kick into gear this Friday at Walmart.

Chalk it up to the shorter season—there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas—but the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer is pulling out all the stops to nudge consumers into its stores and onto its website.

“Customers count on Walmart for the best prices every day, and the holiday season is no exception,”  Steve Bratspies, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at Walmart U.S., said. “Our price leadership is strong, and growing, and we’re excited to deliver savings for all of our holiday shoppers.”

Bratspies added, “Saving our customers time is also paramount at this time of year, especially with fewer days to get ready for big family meals, parties and gift giving. We’re making sure this season is the easiest yet for our customers with nine tech-enabled ways to shop for everyone on their list–when and how they want.”

Because smartphones and other digital devices continue dominating discovery on the path to purchase, especially at he holidays, Walmart’s rolling out a number of connected experiences and other seasonal features to help customers shop smart this holiday.

Customers can take advantage of the Gift Finder, which displays gift options for 40 different types of recipients based on data about each person and a price range. A scannable toy catalog available on Nov. 1 for iOS devices enables customers to can shop for more than 150 exclusives through the Walmart app.

The mass-merchant retailer is also expanding free next-day delivery for hundreds of thousands of eligible items and an expanded Check Out With Me option at Walmart Supercenters lets shoppers skip the cash-wrap queue.

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Shoppers who can’t find an item in a Walmart Supercenter can enlist the aid of DotCom Store, where store associates can place online orders for them.

Beginning at midnight ET on Friday, the discounter will drop early deals on, with more to come throughout the season.

Walmart is adding new brands to its holiday assortment, such as SwissTech apparel, Hello Bello premium baby products and Bobbi Brown cosmetics and makeup. It’s also kicking up its “retailtainment” events throughout the season, hosting themed events from the year’s hottest movies, including Star Wars and Frozen 2. Santa is scheduled to appear at Walmart stores nationwide on Nov. 9 and Dec. 7.

Discounts are key for holiday shopping

Promotions like Walmart’s Deal Drops will influence what ends up in consumers’ carts this holiday season.

According to Deloitte’s 34th annual holiday survey of consumer spending intentions and trends released Tuesday, shoppers said they expect to spend $1,496 per household this year, with the top 20 percent of spenders accounting for 60 percent of total dollars. Nearly 70 percent of high spenders said they will start shopping before Thanksgiving Day. And the survey showed that promotions will influence 81 percent of consumers this holiday season.

“Every year, respondents tell us that the most important factor is discounts. This year that tops out with not just promotions, but also free shipping,” Rod Sides, vice chairman at Deloitte LLP and U.S. leader for retail, wholesale and distribution, said.

According to the survey, free shipping is more important for 85 percent of the survey respondents than fast shipping at 15 percent, while those who chose “fast,” at 68 percent, described that to mean no more than two days in transit. And the majority of those who opt for free shipping, at 67 percent, are willing to wait between three and seven days to receive their online orders.

Sides also noted that consumers said they are more likely to make use of their smartphones this year. “What is most fascinating is that we are also seeing an increase in the number of people who are using their phones not just to research products and discounts, but to ultimately make purchases. In fact, 70 percent of smartphone users said they will use their phone to make a purchase this holiday season,” he said.

The bulk of the holiday spending, which will average $596, will go to experiences and celebrations, which include entertaining at home, socializing away from home, travel and restaurants. The survey also indicated that people of all age groups likely will rely more on Cyber Monday than Black Friday, not a surprise as respondents said they expect to spend 59 percent of their holiday budget online, compared with 36 percent in-store.

Top five trends driving holiday sales

A study from R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. on Tuesday disclosed five trends that it believes will drive retail sales this holiday season at brick-and-mortar stores.

Instead of being the final stop on the shopping journey, retailers that make the physical store experience meaningful will create a memorable moment when shopper head online to make their purchases, RRD said. Another trend is the growth of pop-up experiences, which can create lasting impressions with potential customers. “By adding an additional, unique form of interaction, retailers can engage with consumers in an uncommon and therefore more memorable way,” the company added.

Brands and retailers will leverage voice technology to drive shoppers to physical stores, including widely used digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri, which can answer questions about store hours and locations.

Another online-only brands are making the leap to the real world to speak directly to consumers, according to RRD. E-commerce brands are incorporating brick-and-mortar to make deeper connections with their customers because “sensory interactions with both the products and store employees [are] more multi-dimensional than any online platform can provide.”

And finally, RRD said the idea of the “store as warehouse” becomes more essential for the e-commerce world, citing Target’s strong second-quarter performance as an example of how an in-store warehouse using same-day-services can have an impact on total sales and profits.