We look at Walmart’s plans for Black Friday and the holiday season as it adjusts to the COVID-19 trading environment.
Ensuring a fast, easy and safe shopping experience
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Walmart is planning for a different holiday shopping experience this year. Last month, it announced that its stores would be closed on Thanksgiving Day, the traditional kick-off to the holiday season. This year, its plans are centred around meeting the increased demand for online shopping, evolving customer preferences and delivering a fast, easy and safe shopping experience.
20,000 new associates to support online demand
Walmart plans to recruit 20,000 seasonal associates within its ecommerce fulfillment centres to support the expected increase in demand. This is in addition to the 500,000 associates recruited since March across its stores and distribution network.
Adjusting the product mix to the “new normal”
Over the last six months, Walmart has seen significant changes in what customers have been purchasing. Reflecting this, it plans to increase the availability of products such as athleisure, loungewear and sleepwear, outdoor grills, bicycles and exercise equipment and outdoor sporting equipment. The retailer has also increased its inventory in electronics, including TVs, laptops and video games and has expanded its 'Holiday Bake Center' to additional stores, including increasing the availability of popular kitchen appliances.
Customers planning to start holiday shopping earlier
Walmart has started to offer its key holiday gifts this month. Its research indicates that 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 one in three customers planning to start their holiday shopping before early November.
Delivering a safe shopping environment
As part of its plans to maintain a safe shopping environment, many of new programmes launched over the last six months will continue. These include reduced store hours (stores closed overnight), a requirement for face masks to be worn, plexiglass shields and traffic management measures. Contactless pickup and delivery services will also be an important element, along with contactless payment through Walmart Pay and self-scanning, which has recently been made available as a perk of the new membership programme, Walmart+.
A different approach for 2020
With US cases continuing to track at a high rate and several other countries experiencing a second COVID-19 wave, the usual practice of maximising traffic over the holiday season with deep discounts and events, requires a new approach this year. In most markets, retailers continue to see elevated demand, reflecting the shift from out-of-home. While this suggests that the battle for sales may not be as intense, operators will be mindful of maintaining their market shares and retaining the new customers they have attracted this year. The themes of meeting the demand for online shopping, adjusting to meet the preferences of the at-home consumer and providing a safe place to shop will be central to all retailers’ plans this holiday season.
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