November 2, 2013

Walmart, Amazon.com launch Christmas deals early

And in one of the shortest retail seasons in years, JCPenney and Macy’s will open on Thanksgiving.

By Tiffany Hsu
Los Angeles Times

Most Halloween candy is still sitting uneaten, but retailers such as Walmart have already begun kicking off their Christmas promotions in hopes of surviving harsh holiday conditions this year.

click image to enlarge

In this December 2008 file photo, an Amazon.com employee grabs boxes off the conveyor belt to load in a truck at their Fernley, Nev., warehouse. Most Halloween candy is still sitting uneaten, but retailers such as Walmart and Amazon.com have already begun kicking off their Christmas promotions in hopes of surviving harsh holiday conditions this year.

AP Photo

Bargain basement deals normally reserved for Black Friday and Cyber Monday are already emerging – a month earlier than usual – as stores race to claim a share of what is forecast to be a lukewarm shopping season.

Walmart launched a slate of online offers Friday, including 36 percent savings on a JVC 42-inch LED television and 51 percent savings on a 10-inch Xelio tablet. The retailer said the $299 and $49 price tags, respectively, were the lowest it has ever offered for those products.

The chain discounter also unveiled bargains on the Nintendo DSI XL, the Sodastream soda maker and products from Apple, Disney and Vizio.

To sweeten the deal, Walmart said it was offering its most expansive free-shipping program. Orders over $50, including 99 percent of items on Walmart.com, are eligible.

The company said it tripled the number of products that can be ordered online and picked up in stores the same day.

The retailer is also trying to lure more customers via digital channels, urging them to learn about deals via email, Facebook or the company’s mobile application.

Also Friday, Amazon.com launched its Black Friday Deals Store. In an unprecedented move, the e-commerce giant is running two Deals of the Day each day through Dec. 22.

Morgan Stanley, in a report Thursday that predicted the worst holiday shopping season since 2008, worried that early discounting could hurt retailer profits.

Malls are already entering the season at a disadvantage – the shortest Thanksgiving-to-Christmas time frame in years, lingering aftershocks from the government shutdown and weak consumer confidence.

Several more chains – JC Penney and Macy’s among them – are opening on Thanksgiving this year without bothering to wait for Black Friday.

Holiday shopping amounts to as much 40 percent of some retailers’ annual revenue – putting pressure on companies that have had a slow year of sales.

Earlier, data firm ShopperTrak predicted that holiday sales growth would be the slowest in four years.

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