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Target Hits Holiday Early, Guarantees Price Match

Target Corp. is making sure it’s the go-to source for early-bird shoppers this holiday season.

In a preemptive strike, the retailer is starting its price-match guarantee earlier than ever to allay consumer fears that prices could go lower as the season progresses.

The discounter said on Wednesday that the guest-favorite Target Deal Days will return on Oct. 10-12 so shoppers can get an early start on checking off must-haves on their shopping lists. The retailer said there will be “deep discounts” across Target’s entire assortment, featuring thousands of items across every category, including national brands as well as company-owned labels.

In another salvo, Target’s holiday price-match guarantee will begin earlier this year and run all season long. The guarantee starts on Oct. 10 and runs through Dec. 24. The initiative is aimed at “giving guests confidence they can buy now and don’t need to wait until later in the season to get the retailer’s best deals.” Target last year unveiled its Deal Days on Oct. 13 and 14, but didn’t start its price-match guarantee until Nov. 1.

A check on Target’s price match policy shows that customers can request a price adjustment if Target lowers the price later in the season. And they also can request a price match for select competitors’ pricing, either online or from a local print ad, within 14 days of purchase. Who’s prices will Target match? The company website lists 29 online competitors that include Amazon.com, Apple.com, BedBathandBeyond.com, DicksSportingGoods.com, JCPenney.com, Kohls.com, Macys.com, Walmart.com and Wayfair.com, to name a few.

“As we approach the holiday season, guests are excited to shop early, and our team is ready to help them prepare so they can celebrate what matters most—time with family and friends,” Christina Hennington, executive vice president and chief growth officer, said. “That’s why we’re bringing back Target Deal Days, offering incredible value earlier than ever, and making the shopping experience even easier with deals available online, through the Target App and in our more than 1,900 stores for the first time.”

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“Retailers offering to price match is a smart move amid another holiday shopping season in turmoil. It shows they are aware of how crucial it is to lock in holiday sales as early as possible given challenges such as supply chain delays and rising prices on goods,” said David Malka, chief sales officer at return logistics firm goTRG.

Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for retail trade group the National Retail Federation (NRF), had predicted in July that because some suppliers are adding surcharges to cover added costs as early as Nov. 1, retailers likely would start to encourage consumers to get their gift buying started early just as they did last October. Last year, the concern was over the coronavirus pandemic and whether consumers would be able to get their presents shipped in time for Christmas. This year, the concerns are over shortages in inventory due to supply chain disruptions, as well as the likelihood that costs will get passed on to consumers when those supplier surcharges start to roll in.

NRF hasn’t yet provided any sales projections for the 2021 holiday season. However, it did raise its annual retail sales guidance to up 10.5 percent to 13.5 percent from an initial projected growth rate of 6.5 percent to 8.2 percent.

In a Pitney Bowes survey of more than 2,000 online shoppers, consumers were asked over the past month about their shopping plans and one in three said they will start to shop more online, a 19 percent increase from May when they were last surveyed about changes in shopping behaviors. A total of 41 percent said they expect to be shopping more online this holiday season versus their current shopping habits. One difference between now and the May survey has been the recent spikes in coronavirus cases due to the highly contagious Delta variant, particularly among the unvaccinated, and the rise in public health restrictions.

There’s another reason why retailers might want to get shoppers to start making their holiday purchases now rather than later.

On Tuesday, The Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index fell for the third month in a row. The Index fell to 109.3 for September from 115.2 last month, representing a seven-month low. While the spread of the Delta variant likely had an impact on consumer optimism, consumers also had concerns over the short-term labor market outlook. Moreover, Americans weren’t that optimistic about their own short-term financial prospects as 11.5 percent of survey respondents said they expect their incomes to decline, up from 9.9 percent last month.

Wells Fargo economists said next week’s employment report could provide some insight on whether the labor market might be at the start of a weaker trend.

The economics team on Wednesday said holiday sales so far are on track for a record increase in 2021, although there could be some loss of momentum as the season progresses. But even if consumers go into hiding, the Wells Fargo economists expect 2021 holiday sales to rise 10 percent to 13 percent.

“A key theme for holiday sales in 2021 is to be early,” they advised.

Because supply chain problems are getting worse, they expect shortages and empty shelves for many holiday items, leaving last-minute holiday shoppers nothing but gift cards. The economists also noted higher gas prices at the pump, which could weigh on confidence and steal wallet share from shopping. The combination of inflation and supply shortages could also mean fewer discounts this holiday season, another reason they believe that consumers should buy when they see what they want instead of waiting until later to make purchases.

Typically, spending in the final months of the year usually is the “make or break” period for retailers. But with so much spending from pent-up demand at the start of the year when local economies began to reopen, even if sales stagger to the finish line, the gains already realized could still see retailers with positive results for the year. “It is not unlike protecting an early lead in a football game,” the Wells Fargo economists concluded.