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Walmart Unveils Holiday Plans as Date for Amazon Prime Day Leaks

Walmart unveiled its plan for the holiday season as the date for Amazon’s annual Prime Day was leaked ahead of an official announcement.

Walmart says customers most want to be able to create wish lists this holiday, as what they’re shopping for is evolving. Athleisure and loungewear styles are playing greater roles in shoppers’ apparel choices.

The big-box chain is bulking up on inventory that it thinks customers want, including lifestyle merchandise like outdoor grills, bicycles and exercise equipment, outdoor sporting merchandise, and pet products in both stores and online, noting that it is ready to “sell over 3 million comfy pet beds.”

Walmart has increased its inventory in “electronics, with a focus on TVs, laptops and video games, in addition to offering over 1,300 new toys, including puzzles, games and Legos, as well as more than 800 Walmart holiday exclusives. It also expanded its Holiday Bake Center to more of its stores, and expanded its availability of popular kitchen appliances, such as the KitchenAid Plus Stand Mixer.

Walmart says the holiday gifts are now in stores and on the company’s website so customers can get a jump on seasonal shopping, which is expected to strain e-commerce. “This move is based on research insights that show 87% of customers who shopped Walmart over the past six months say they plan to seek out deals and great prices earlier this year to better prepare for the holiday season, with 1 in 3 customers planning to start their holiday shopping before early November,” the company said.

“Over the past six months, our customers have been shopping differently, and we expect that will continue into the most important shopping season of the year – the holidays,” Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S., said. “We’ve heard from our customers that many plan on starting their holiday shopping well before Black Friday, and that they’re looking for gifts that fit their current lifestyle. So, we’ve adjusted our strategy to adapt to these new shopping preferences – we’re offering more of what they want now, earlier than ever, and all at the best prices.”

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The discounter is still planning Black Friday specials, but the savings will be spread out throughout the season, with even more deals available online. Walmart said more details will be forthcoming.

Walmart plans to hire more than 20,000 seasonal associates to work at its e-commerce fulfillment centers across the country. From order fillers to power equipment operators, the starting hourly rate ranges from $15.75 to $23.75, depending on location, position and schedule. The seasonal work begins as soon one is hired and continues through Jan. 1, 2021. Walmart said many of the positions have the opportunity to convert to regular employment. The additional temporary workforce are on top of the over 500,000 hired since March across the retailer’s stores and supply chain.

“As more of [our customers] turn to online shopping, we want to ensure we’re staffed and ready to help deliver that special gift to their loved ones while continuing to fulfill our customer’s everyday needs,” Greg Smith, executive vice president, supply chain for Walmart U.S., said. “We’re also proud to be able to continue to provide employment opportunities across the country when it’s needed most.”

Store safety investments will remain in place, including sneeze guards, traffic management and face covering requirements. Walmart stores will also continue to be closed overnight so associates will have time to sanitize stores and stock shelves.

Contactless pickup and delivery will be available on more than 160,000 items, with express delivery on a wide assortment delivered within two hours, depending on customer location. And Walmart will offer free next day or free two-day shipping on online orders. The discounter also emphasized its new Walmart Plus membership for $98, which offers unlimited free delivery from stores, and other special privileges, such as “Scan & Go, that let customers scan their items as they shop and pay using Walmart Pay for a quick, easy, touch-free payment experience.”

As Walmart goes big for the holidays, Amazon’s 48-hour “Prime Day” in the U.S. looks to be slated for Oct. 13-14. Media reports indicate that leaked internal e-mails—first reported by The Verge— are pointing to those two days for the special sale, which typically is set in July, but was pushed back due to Covid-19. Amazon is expected to confirm the dates on Sept. 27.  Deals during the marquee shopping event are exclusive to Amazon Prime members.

Now in its fifth year, the deals on Amazon Prime rival those found at other brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday. In fact, many consumers in the past have started their holiday shopping in July through Prime Day “Lightning Deals.” Whether this year’s deals will match those in years past will be interesting to watch, in addition to monitoring supply and fulfillment capabilities as the shopping season progresses through November and December, given that Prime Day in 2020 is so close to the early start for holiday that many expect to begin in earnest after Halloween.

The marketplace platform has already geared up for the busy season, announcing plans to hire 100,000 full-time and part-time employees in new fulfillment jobs and open of 100 buildings in September to house new fulfillment and sortation centers, delivery stations and other sites.