Walmart and Target start vacations early to lessen the sting of inflation

NEW YORK — Walmart and Target plan to start offering price-matching deals and offers earlier this year to keep pace with Americans pressured by soaring inflation and looking for ways to ease the potential sting of shopping vacation.

For two years now, shoppers have started preparing early for the holidays, but last year it was because the global supply chain was scrambled as nations began to emerge from the pandemic. This year, experts believe it’s a rapid rise in prices, also linked to pandemic-hit economies, that will prompt Americans to shop early to avoid prices they think could rise further and spread the expenses as they pay more for gas, food, and just about everything else.

The holiday sales strategies, announced Thursday, come amid holiday sales growth that is expected to be slower than a year ago. AlixPartners, the global consultancy, expects holiday sales to grow 4% to 7%, well below last year’s 16% growth. The current inflation rate of 8.3% means that retailers would see a decrease in their real sales.

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, is also expanding the return window by more than a month. Gift returns will now be accepted between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31, compared to last year’s return window of Nov. 1 to Jan. 24, the company said.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart is offering a wider assortment of items this year with more new brands and more Walmart exclusives than a year ago, according to Tom Ward, the company’s director of e-commerce. The company is deepening discounts on items such as toys, homewares, electronics, and beauty. He said more than half of the toys on Walmart’s list of expected hot holiday toys are under $50 – with far less than $25 – and nearly all of the toys are available in stores now or for pre-order at walmart.com.

Minneapolis-based Target said it will start running holiday deals between Oct. 6 and Oct. 8, a few days earlier than a year ago and then start matching prices, too. Few days ago.

Target offers one of the most generous price-matching offers in retail, beating offers from more than two dozen other stores. This also applies to purchases on Target.com.

Target plans to hire up to 100,000 seasonal employees in stores and distribution centers this holiday season, similar to a year ago.

Walmart is taking a more cautious approach to hiring this year, saying this week it would hire 40,000 U.S. vacation workers, a majority of them seasonal workers.

Last year, Walmart announced it would hire about 150,000 new store workers in the United States, mostly permanent full-time positions, in addition to 20,000 permanent distribution and warehouse workers as the pandemic was disrupting supply chains.

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