Those of us who follow retail are dying to know what some companies' plans are to make this holiday season -- one that's expected to be a challenging one at best, given concerns about consumer spending -- a success. Last week, I spoke to a spokeswoman for Target
Lena Michaud, senior manager of communications for Target, fleshed out some of the retailer's holiday cheer. Of course, it plans to stick to its "brand promise," which is providing differentiated merchandise year round (always expected from Target). It's also got a ton of gift cards, both holiday-oriented and general; I liked the line of limited-edition gift cards with clever touches, such as one that doubles as a flashlight and another that's also a box of crayons.
When it comes to drumming up extra excitement, the company's also got an addition for the gift-giving season, dubbed "WOW or never."
It's WOW or never
"WOW or never" is a limited-time sweepstakes through which 20 specific products purchased with customers' Target "REDcard" credit cards automatically enter the purchasers into a sweepstakes to win some aspirational prizes. The sweepstakes starts Nov. 25 and ends Dec. 1. For example, buy an Isaac Mizrahi trench coat, and you're entered to win a New York designer experience with Mizrahi and Sonia Kashuk. Or pick up a copy of Tony Hawk's Proving Ground limited edition video game, and you could win a trip for two to Los Angeles to meet Tony Hawk at Activision's
To my way of thinking, though, some of the products and prizes seem to have a little more "wow" than others. For example, one of the featured products is Sony's
Whether you consider the sweepstakes Christmas-y or corny, maybe Target doesn't really have to provide too much additional "wow" for its customer base in the first place. Although Michaud acknowledged that there will be some discounts on products for limited times, it doesn't sound like any drastic, desperate preemptive price-cutting is planned, although Target will have its two-day sale on Black Friday and the following Saturday (with a 6 a.m. opening on Friday).
Tough times in tinseltown?
There is, of course, an elephant in the room: Wal-Mart
Despite Wal-Mart's big, aggressive move, it looks like many retailers are going to play this game of chicken carefully. If Target doesn't sound like it's going to do a no-holds-barred bout of slashing, maybe it's not alone. (And Target said in its third-quarter conference call that it hasn't really noticed major changes from last year, despite investors' concern about a consumer slowdown.) Given concerns about consumer strength, tight inventory control is a list that retailers are checking twice this year. It's one thing to make strategic price cuts to increase customer traffic, but it's quite another to slash prices to move merchandise.
Investors have two ways to look at Target's holiday initiatives -- to suspect Target is just not trying hard enough this pivotal year, or to suspect it's a retailer that actually doesn't have to. I'm leaning toward the latter. October was a recent bright spot for Target, as consumers reacted favorably to its Halloween merchandise.