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Walmart throws parties to lure holiday shoppers away from Amazon

If you’re Walmart, how do you solve a problem like Amazon?

The answer: Throw a party.

That’s right, Walmart (WMT) announced on Nov. 1 that it will be hosting 20,000 holiday parties at its Supercenters across the nation. The events will take place on Nov. 4, Dec. 2, and Dec. 16, and will include 165,000 product demos so shoppers can taste and test items. Santa will also be in the stores to take photos with shoppers.

To further enhance the in-store experience, Walmart is also bringing back its Holiday Helpers, associates dedicated to assisting customers.

Walmart is attempting to bring customers into stores this holiday season.
Walmart is attempting to bring customers into stores this holiday season.

Even though Walmart is the world’s largest retailer, it’s pretty clear that these parties are an attempt to lure shoppers into stores and away from Amazon (AMZN). Over the past year, brick-and-mortar retailers have taken a hit, with many struggling to keep their doors open. In 2017, Payless ShoeSource closed 900 stores, Gymboree closed 350 and RadioShack shuttered 1,000 of its locations. In fact, Fung Global Retail & Technology, a retail think tank, found that more than 6,700 U.S. stores have closed so far this year, more than any other year on record.

The number of people choosing to shop online continues to grow, with a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey finding that 59% of consumers plan to do their holiday shopping online. This is the first year that online beat out department stores as the most popular shopping destination.

Holiday shopping perks for customers

In addition to parties, Walmart will dramatically increase its in-store and online inventory this holiday season. For the first time, popular brands like Cuisinart and KitchenAid will be available in stores. Similarly, Bose is now available online and in select stores.

Guests will be able to snap a photo with Santa at Walmart during the holidays.
Guests will be able to snap a photo with Santa at Walmart during the holidays.

Walmart’s online shoppers will also enjoy free two-day shipping on orders over $35. The shipping applies to more than 2 million items, and unlike Amazon, a membership is not needed.

“We’re leveraging our more than 4,700 stores and Walmart.com to deliver more assortment, exclusives, convenience and savings than ever before,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer at Walmart U.S.

Rival Target’s holiday game plan

Target (TGT) has also announced some holiday perks designed to attract shoppers. During the holiday season, most stores will have a photo booth where shoppers can take a photo with a digital Santa. On weekends in December, shoppers will be able to sample holiday treats and participate in interactive demonstrations.

Eight new brands will also make their debut at Target in the next month, including Hearth and Hand with Magnolia, home decor co-designed by HGTV “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines.

To stay competitive, Target has significantly upped its online game this holiday season. Starting on Nov. 1, Target.com will offer free shipping with no minimum purchase required. Likewise, the number of stores shipping online orders has been increased to insure faster and more efficient delivery for guests. For those wishing to Order Pickup, 95% of online orders will be ready to pick up in-store within one hour.

Target is also unveiling the “GiftNow” button online. This cool new feature allows you to send a present through an e-gift box, and the recipient can change the color, size or specifications before anything ships to them. This prevents the recipient from getting a gift that’s not to their liking.

The NRF predicts that holiday retail sales will reach between $678 billion and $682 billion in 2017, nearly 4% higher than last year. It’s clear that retailers are doing everything possible to claim a piece of the pie.

Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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