Target on Wednesday said that between Nov. 1 and Dec. 21, it's offering free shipping "on hundreds of thousands of items" available for everyone at the holidays, with orders arriving as early as the next day. No minimum purchase or membership is required, according to a company press release.
The mass merchant will spend almost $50 million more than last year on payroll to "make more skilled team members available" to assist shoppers during peak holiday hours, the company also said. That includes doubling the number of employees dedicated to fulfillment, which will enable the retailer to get customers their orders "in as soon as an hour."
Members of the newly expanded Target Circle loyalty program are getting special holiday perks, including early access to some Black Friday doorbusters, kids daily deals Nov. 1-27, and other special deals throughout the season on apparel, TVs and other "holiday must-haves," the company said.
Amazon may be well poised to capture holiday consumers' attention, at least among Prime members, including those who say they're regular Target shoppers.
Eighty-eight percent of Amazon Prime members plan to buy on Amazon, (compared to about 65.4% of non-Prime members) — and 31.8% of those are switching from Target, according to a Coresight Research report last month. Those analysts also found that nearly 52% said they're switching from Walmart to Amazon, 23.3% from Best Buy and 20.1% from Kohl's.
But that won't actually happen if Target has anything to say about it.
The retailer has been building out a system of in-store pickup of online orders, (including bringing purchases out to customers' cars, "with most orders ready within an hour and brought out in less than two minutes upon arrival"), same-day delivery with Shipt, (where items are "delivered in as soon as an hour" via 1,500 stores in 48 states), and free shipping on online orders for RedCard holders.
The company has also developed a way for those without RedCards to gain meaningful perks, earning 1% on purchases to redeem at the mass merchant later, as well as the opportunity to vote to direct Target's charitable contributions to causes in their local communities. The Target Circle program, now available nationwide, boasts 25 million members. Target in its release said that during an 18-month pilot, Target Circle members shopped more frequently and spent 2% to 5% more.
But perhaps most important for its seasonal prospects this year, the company has leveraged something that Amazon, at least for the moment, doesn't really have beyond its Whole Foods grocery chain and a few other branded locations — stores. Target has revamped many to be easier and more appealing to shop, and opened several smaller locations to be convenient to city dwellers and college students.
When it comes to convenience, which analysts say will be top of mind for holiday shoppers this year, the retailer sounds more than ready. In addition to that offer, though, Target is also calling attention to its merchandise, with an expanded selection of "more than 10,000 new and exclusive toys," a reprise of its "Wondershop," a sort of holiday pop-up available in store and online, a curated gift assortment where most items are under $15, its many private labels in several categories, and partnerships with big names like Disney and Levi's.
That merchandising prowess has led some experts to compare Target to a new sort of department store, at least noting that the retailer has successfully grabbed dollars from the shoppers who may have previously turned to department stores, once go-to places to shop at the holidays. Target CEO Brian Cornell in a statement on Wednesday said the company's "strategy is paying off."
"Last year was our most successful holiday in more than a decade, and that momentum has continued with industry-leading results throughout 2019," he also said.