What changes are retailers doing to face a contactless holiday season?

What changes are retailers doing to face a contactless holiday season?

In this very particular year, in which the consumption habits of Americans have shifted towards online shopping, due closures and fear of contagion, retailers are preparing to face the best-selling time of the year in different ways. What are companies doing to meet the new needs and trends of their clients?

Walmart’s toy testing will be virtual 

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought changes to all aspects of the economy and retail isn't the exception. What is Walmart doing to adapt its toy testing convention to social distancing times?

Before each holiday season, Walmart gathers hundreds of kids at a convention center to try out lots of toys and choose the ones they would want to get for Christmas. The result of this testing shapes the retailer’s list of top toys for the holiday season.

This year, when social distancing prevents gathering people, the company mailed toys to several dozen kids for them to test at home, and developed an online tool that lets kids virtually unbox, test, and play with toys.

Walmart Wonder Lab will allow kids to try over 100 toys and guide virtual hands to interact with them. It’s a scaled-up version of a tool the company had the past two holiday seasons.

Walmart’s Brad Bedwell said it anticipates many customers to buy toys online this year and has sent more toys to fulfillment centers to meet the demand.

Toy sales have shot up during the pandemic and especially jumped in May, rising 37% from a year earlier, as parents bought outdoor items to keep children entertained at home.

According to CNBC, 25% to 30% of all toy sales were online in the U.S. prior to the pandemic, and more than 50% of toy sales were online at the peak of the pandemic.
Walmart is the top toy retailer in the U.S. It has about 25% in market share, followed by Amazon with about 20% and Target with 15% to 20%.

Home Depot’s Black Friday will last two months

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Home Depot announced that it is canceling its annual Black Friday sale, but it's not bad news. Instead, the company will offer reduced prices during the months of November and December.

 The largest home improvement retailer in the United States reported through its website that "it decided to reinvent Black Friday to avoid the stress of consumers who feel the need to visit the store for just one day," and thus avoid the risks that customers take when they rush to branches in droves, lining up to be the first to get the best deals.

Although it is true that Black Friday sales have fallen in recent years, Home Depot reported that maintaining the safety of its customers was an important factor in making the decision and also announced that all of its branches will be closed on Thanksgiving. 

Walmart, the largest retailer in the country, will also be closed on Thanksgiving, marking the first time in more than 30 years that it will not open during the holiday.

Companies like Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Best Buy, JCPenney, and Foot Locker will also be closed during the holiday that marks the start of the Christmas season.

Target is betting on online Christmas shopping

Target is gearing up for the winter season by increasing its team of workers as it expects to see an increase in contactless shopping in the coming months.

The retailer announced that it plans to hire 130,000 employees, in order to double the number of team members dedicated to collecting orders and driving, compared to last year.

Like other retailers, Target has seen a shift toward e-commerce during the first half of fiscal 2020, when more than 10 million new customers bought from its website. 

Demand for its same-day options, which are purchased online, quadrupled.

To face this, Target's distribution centers will hire more seasonal workers, but there will also be additional employees in stores to focus on safety, cleanliness, and to welcome customers.

Target CEO Brian Cornell said his approach to staffing and serving customers during the holidays will emphasize flexibility, an issue all retailers have had to embrace as the pandemic shakes the way Americans are buying.

Cornell said he expects "certain trends from earlier this year to continue into the holiday season," such as customers wanting to feel safe in stores and looking for a good price.

In 2018, Target hired 120,000 workers during the holiday season, and according to the company, more than 40 percent of those new hires stayed at Target after the holiday season ended.

To apply for a job at Target you can go to the company's website.

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