Amazon Competitors Quick to Counter Punch on Early Prime Day Plans

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Walmart and Target didn’t hesitate in responding to Amazon’s announcement of Prime Day on Oct. 13 and 14, an unusual occurrence in an extraordinary year, by rolling out their own deals and offers to try to steal some of the unusually early holiday thunder from the ecommerce leader.

“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,” said Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., in a blog post. “We’ve heard from our customers that many are planning to start their holiday shopping well before Black Friday and that they’re looking for gifts that fit their current lifestyle.”

All of this “big 3” activity is in line with expectations of much earlier shopping, deals and offers, partly to flatten expected blowout ecommerce demand in December and its impact on fulfillment and delivery capacity. Speaking of, this season will test the mettle of the billions in logistics and inventory management investments made by retail and ecommerce companies to prepare for massive numbers of both store fulfilled and shipped online orders in Q4.

Analysts agree that holiday foot traffic will be down significantly as concerns continue over the spread of coronavirus, especially as the CDC calls shopping in crowded stores this season a risky behavior.

The timing of Prime Day is causing some consternation among sellers who typically gear up for a major Cyber Weekend (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday), but also have put a lot of chips on Prime Day’s (until now) midsummer bash.

For starters, Amazon has begun trumpeting Prime Day offers, leading with electronics and devices and giving shoppers more tools to alert them to deals as they’re available. Amazon’s own fashion brands will also be a major focus for Prime Day, including a new focus on men’s apparel. A new Amazon assistant app – as distinct from Alexa – enables comparison shopping, deal alerts and creation of wish lists.

To sweeten the pot, Amazon is providing Prime Day credits of up to $50 for shopping in its growing assortment of physical venues: Whole Foods, Amazon Fresh, Amazon Go or Amazon Go Grocery, Amazon Books or Amazon Pop Up.

In this corner, Target comes back with Deals Days falling on – you guessed it – Oct. 13 and 14. The retailer is promising discounts on hundreds of thousands of items across categories for the two days including electronics, home, essentials, toys and beauty. Since Oct. 13-14 isn’t early enough, there will also be early bird deals beforehand on and through its loyalty program and app. The retailer is also extending its price match guarantee throughout the season.

Target said it plans to hire 130,000 seasonal workers, the same as last year, but will dedicate twice as many to fulfilling online orders vs. store sales via curbside and store pickup.

“This year, in a holiday season unlike any other, we know it’s more important than ever for our guests to get great deals in a convenient and safe shopping environment,” said Christina Hennington, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Target, explain the rationale for the early seasonal start in a blog post.

Looking over its shoulder at Target, Walmart said it has increased its holiday inventory across electronics, toys and home goods like kitchen appliances. The company is looking to hire 20,000 fulfillment center workers, on top of the 500,000 new associates across stores and logistics functions this year due to pandemic-driven demand.

Adapting to the “new normal” of consumer behavior and doubling down on cocooning, Walmart is also bulking up on athleisure, loungewear and sleepwear, outdoor grills, bicycles and exercise equipment and outdoor sporting equipment and pet supplies.

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