Walmart Sees Three Key Changes to Holiday Shopping

Safety remains a key concern for “new normal” shoppers.

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Like other marketers, Walmart has been paying extra close attention to shopping behaviors since the coronavirus took hold last spring.

After studying consumers’ changing habits and speaking with customers over the past six months, the world’s largest discount chain has discerned three key shopping trends that may reshape the upcoming holiday selling season — and shared some of its strategies for addressing them.

“Over the past six months, our customers have been shopping differently, and we expect that will continue into the most important shopping season of the year — the holidays,” said Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S.

The first trend is one that AVB CEO Jim Ristow has been heralding for more than a year: an increase in online shopping, as more and more consumers choose to shop from the safety and convenience of their homes. To prepare of the expected online onslaught, Walmart hired more than half a million workers since March to man its stores and supply chain locations, and plans to bring in an additional 20,000 seasonal associates to further fortify its e-commerce fulfillment centers.

“As more [customers] turn to online shopping, we want to ensure we’re staffed and ready to help deliver that special gift to their loved ones while continuing to fulfill our customers’ everyday needs,” said Greg Smith, the company’s executive vice president for supply chain.

In addition to how customers choose to shop, another fundamental change is what they will be shopping for. According to Walmart, consumers are seeking more lifestyle products during the “new normal” such as outdoor grills, exercise equipment, bicycles and outdoor sporting goods, while homebound workers and students are buying more laptops, TVs and video games. Countertop appliances are another increasingly popular category as more meals are being prepared at home.

To that end, Walmart has built up its inventory in those categories, and will begin promoting them with holiday discounts even earlier than in past years. “We’ve heard from our customers that many plan on starting their holiday shopping well before Black Friday and that they’re looking for gifts that fit their current lifestyle,” said chief merchant McCall. “So, we’ve adjusted our strategy to adapt to these new shopping preferences — we’re offering more of what they want now, earlier than ever, and all at the best prices.”

Accordingly, Walmart said it is planning “an all-new Black Friday experience” that will spread its traditional doorbuster discounts throughout the season and move more of its holiday deals online.

See: Bye-Bye Black Friday?

Finally, taking a page from the BrandSource COVID playbook, Walmart is working to ensure customer and employee safety by limiting store hours to allow for overnight cleansings; requiring face coverings; installing plastic barriers at checkouts; offering curbside pickup; and managing traffic with separate entrances and exits, the placement of social-distancing floor decals, and other safety reminders.

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.