How Walmart, Target and Others Are Making Black Friday Easier
The holiday shopping season is always a competitive one for retailers, and this year is no exception. With Toys R Us gone and Sears in bankruptcy, Amazon, Target, and Walmart are going all out to lure consumers and entice them to spend money. For 2018, these retailers — and others — have more than just deep discounts in store. They're also rolling out new services and technology that promise to save money and time, while making the holiday shopping experience easier in stores and online.
Amazon, Target, and Walmart have all waived shipping charges this holiday season, announcing free two-day shipping for purchases made through December. Amazon is also giving Prime members free same-day shipping on many items, in addition to the usual options. Even without Prime, there's no minimum purchase amount to qualify for free shipping. Target and Walmart both impose a $35 minimum.
Many retailers give you 30 days to return something for a refund or exchange, but those rules are usually relaxed at the holidays for items purchased in November and December. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kmart, and Sears have all extended their return windows until Jan. 31, 2019. Best Buy's holiday return window closes Jan. 12, but that deadline is extended for members of its Elite and Elite Plus rewards clubs. Kmart and Sears have similar policies for their Shop My Way members.
Perhaps inspired by Amazon Go stores, both Target and Walmart will allow customers in some of their stores to check out without the checkout line. Employees armed with credit card readers will be stationed around the store, so you can buy that giant TV in the electronics section without wrestling it through the checkout up front. Shoppers at some BJ's Wholesale Clubs and Kroger grocery stores can use an app-based scanner to shop, pay, and go while avoiding the checkout line.
The disappearance of Toys 'R' Us from the retail landscape earlier this year left a huge void in the market, and other retailers are only too eager to fill Geoffrey the Giraffe's shoes. Amazon has rolled out a digital holiday toy catalog, a first for the online giant, while both Target and Walmart are promising vastly expanded floor space for their in-store toy sections. All three are offering exclusive versions of some of the hottest holiday toys, including Fingerlings, Hatchimals, Lego, and more.
Layaway policies became popular after the Great Recession hit, and some retailers continue to offer the service. At Walmart stores, purchases of at least $50 can be put on layaway (all items must be at least $10 in value). The down payment is $10 or 10 percent of the total bill, whichever is greater. Other stores offering layaway this holiday include Kmart, Sears, Burlington Coat Factory, Gamestop, Marshalls, and T.J. Maxx.
Amazon isn't the only one upping its holiday shopping game with same-day shipping (free for Prime members). Target is using the third-party delivery service Shipt to give its customers the option of same-day delivery on some items. Unlike on Amazon, this service costs extra, and some items, such as clothing, furniture, and items weighing more than 40 pounds, don't qualify for delivery.
Preparing for holiday meals will be a little easier this year, as retailers including Albertsons, Kroger, HEB, Walmart, and Target offer drive-up grocery pickup for online orders at select stores. Depending on how early you place your order, you may be able to pick it up in as little as a few hours, or you can schedule it several days in advance.
Every year, retailers "leak" their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals well ahead of the events themselves. Target wasted no time this year, dropping its Black Friday flyer on Nov. 1. By the end of the week, Best Buy, Dick's Sporting Goods, Macy's, Walgreens, Walmart, and more had announced their sales, as well.
If you wait until Black Friday itself, you may miss out on some of the biggest bargains. Many stores kick off the savings on Thanksgiving or even earlier. Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart all have been promoting pre-Black Friday deals (although they're rarely popular items or significant discounts). Walmart's official Black Friday sales begin online at 10 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, Nov. 21, and stores will open on Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. with deals of their own. Target is touting similar early savings on Wednesday for RedCard members. Not to be outdone, Amazon is offering voice-shopping specials via Alexa starting at 8 p.m. Eastern on Thanksgiving, plus flash sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Best Buy stores also will be open on Thanksgiving, starting at 5 p.m.
Even if you plan to do your holiday shopping in stores, be sure to bring your smartphone along. The Target and Walmart apps let you view store floor plans, so you can plot the fastest route from the entrance to your must-buy items. They're also promising other in-store savings the apps can unlock. And don't forget trusted third-party shopping apps like Shopkick, iBotta, and Ebates, which give you cash back or special discounts on purchases in-store or online.
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