Very, very quietly Walmart has kicked off their Christmas layaway program this Labor Day weekend. Others, such as Sears and Kmart (if you can find a store of theirs still open), also offer layaway for Christmas.
But what is that rumbling you hear?
It’s the rush to retailers to grab marketshare in toys — one of the biggest selling segments of Christmas. With Toys R Us out of business the toy market is a giant unknown to the world this year (Well, Santa probably knows). And the remaining big fish of retail smell blood in the water.
Layaway is the first salvo in this battle. In Walmart stores only — not online — a customer can visit, shop, select and then set aside anything they want in toys and then leave a small deposit. This allows them to keep the stuff at the store and pay for them later, usually about two weeks or so before Christmas.
Will this be a big advantage to Walmart? Probably so.
The other known retailer to be hungry for toy marketshare is Amazon and they don’t have stores. So they don’t have layaway. Plus, with all their emphasis on two-day shipping, Amazon does not have toy buyer much in the months of September and October. So Walmart has a huuuuuuuuuuuggggggeeee opportunity here and experts expect them to eek out a rare win against Amazon this Christmas.
Walmart, you see, is on fire. They just announced their most recent results and it is the best possible news: sales growth has rebounded to their best level in over a decade and it’s been fueled by Walmart’s 40 percent increase in online sales.
Yeah, I said online sales. As in Amazon territory.
This is gotten everyone’s attention — including Amazon’s.
Amazon recently released their “hottest toys list for 2018” featuring the stuff they think will make holiday sales set another record for the Internet behemoth.
Online sales are nothing to sneeze at. Last Christmas more than $100 billion was sold for Christmas and Amazon took nearly 40 percent of that. Walmart came in a just under 3 percent of online sales, so their in-roads into online sales in 2018 is being watched closely.
What does all this mean?
For consumers, it means before more watchful than ever. The problem with online sales is that retailers are known for changing prices by the minute. Technology allows for retailers to know where you have been looking for your online shopping and what items are most attractive to you. They also know how much others are selling things for.
You could literally sit side-by-side with another person on the same sofa at home “shopping” and see two different prices for the same item as the same moment in time — all based on their evaluation of your online behavior.
That means consumers have to REALLY know the value of an item and when to pounce.
If you are a parent and thus a consumer of toys this is a very important year in terms of buying and selling. The future of toys and who will dominate is at stake.
RH Macy is a former chief executive of a major American retailer. He writes on the business of Christmas with a critical eye and a snarky tone. Half the time you can't take him serious and half the time he reports stunning truth with pinpoint accuracy. He's a master retailer with high standards that knows a thing or two that today's e-commerce titans don't.
Latest posts by RH Macy (see all)