Retailers are beginning sales early this year because there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas on the calendar than last year. Walmart will kick of its holiday deals on Friday, Oct. 25.
“This year is a bit unique for our customers,” Steve Bratspies, Walmart chief merchandising officer, said on a call with reporters.
To draw shoppers away from Amazon online, these retailers are promising faster deliveries. Walmart has started to offer free next-day delivery on orders over $35 for more than 200,000 items. Best Buy said Tuesday that it would offer next-day delivery on thousands of smaller items such as tablets and headphones.
In stores, Walmart and Target will dedicate additional staff on the sales floor to help customers find products and check out more quickly.
Walmart will expand a program that stations store workers in the busiest sections of its massive supercenters. The company is outfitting some workers with mobile checkout scanners to ring up customers on the spot.
Target said it is increasing its holiday payroll by $50 million compared with last year and will increase the number of hours employees work during the holidays. It will also put more staffers on the floor.
Leaders at Walmart and Target say they predicted a strong holiday period.
“We continue to see a very healthy consumer environment,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said Wednesday at an event with reporters. Cornell said his chain would benefit from low unemployment and falling gas prices.
The National Retail Federation estimates retail sales in November and December will grow between 3.8% and 4.2% compared with a year ago.