Why Walmart is offering holiday pricing a full week early this year

Big-box retailer Walmart is bringing its holiday deals forward by a full week to combat the effect of a shorter holiday season in the US.

Peak trading season in the US tends to begin after the American holiday of Thanksgiving, which occurs on the fourth Thursday of November.

However, because November 1 falls on a Friday this year, Thanksgiving is taking place on the latest date it possibly could, November 28.

This also pushes back Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year in the US, to November 29, just a little over three weeks before Christmas.

With the last two months of the calendar year being critical to most retailers’ full-year results, a shortened holiday shopping period is worrisome.

Walmart announced on Wednesday that it would pull forward its holiday pricing to October 25, untethering itself from Thanksgiving as the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

“Customers count of Walmart for the best prices every day, and the holiday season is no exception,” Walmart chief merchandising officer Steve Bratspies said in a statement. 

“Our price leadership is strong and growing, and we’re excited to deliver savings for all our holiday shoppers.”

While most Australian retailers will not be affected by the timing of the Thanksgiving – unless they operate physically or online in the US – the timing of Black Friday this year throws a spanner into the increasingly complex peak season strategy.

Retailers discounting throughout the quarter

The extra six days of trade will be welcome, with Reuters reporting the National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales to increase between 3.8 per cent and 4.2 per cent this year. 

While Walmart will be offering traditionally discounted goods during the holiday period, it is also expanding other holiday offers, such as free next day delivery without a membership and an ability to order goods online with an in-store associate, should products be unavailable. 

“[This] attests to the trends we’ve been seeing in recent years with our clients – what used to be a race to the bottom for discounts has evolved into a more diverse set of approaches to the traditional peak season,” Yieldify chief executive and founder Jay Radia previously said. 

“With competition stronger than ever, it pays to be different as much as it pays to discount.”

According to research earlier this year from Yieldify, more US retailers are looking to spread their discounting across the holiday quarter rather than focus on the growing Black Friday shopping event – which takes place on the Friday following Thanksgiving. 

In fact, 22 per cent of pureplay online businesses surveyed said they would opt out of Black Friday altogether, and those that are planning to participate said they would be offering smaller discounts than omnichannel retailers.

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