It's never too early to kick off the holiday shopping season, and that's exactly what Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is doing. It launched its "Countdown to Black Friday Deals Week" earlier this week, hoping that discounting doorbuster-type bargains in early November will keep customers close during the peak shopping period.
With tens of millions of active online shoppers signed up to Amazon Prime it's not as if the leading e-tailer has to try hard. It knows what it's doing.
Analysts see Amazon growing its sales at a hearty 23% clip this holiday quarter relative to the prior year. Traditional retailers will be lucky to post modest growth in the single digits. This doesn't mean that they're not trying to shake things up. Let's go over a few of the things that some chains are doing this season to try and regain their relevance.
The past few years have been a mess for Kmart parent Sears Holdings (NASDAQOTH:SHLDQ), but Sears Holdings isn't afraid to revive one of the things that made Kmart a unique experience for previous generations. The struggling discount retailer dusted off its iconic "Bluelight Specials" last week, where blue light sirens go off for 15-minute deals. It was a Kmart trademark from the 1960s through the early 1990s.
It's a smart move for a chain that has done mostly dumb moves over the past decade. It gets people into the stores since these are deals that aren't announced ahead of time. Amazon may put out Lightning Deals and own Woot, but the Bluelight Special was the original Lightning Deal or Woot. Kmart needs excitement and store traffic. You probably haven't been inside a Kmart in years. Bluelight Specials could change your mind.
Best Buy (NYSE:BBY)
The leading big-box retailer of consumer electronics is making it easier to take on Amazon by offering free shipping on all items that are sold and shipped by Best Buy. It used to have a $35 minimum for shoppers to receive free delivery, but it knows how deal seekers feel about restrictions.
Best Buy is also offering free Geek Squad setup on its top tech gifts. The list includes select smartwatches, laptops, and fitness bracelets. You didn't think that Best Buy would mount your flat screen for free, did you? However, offering vouchers for one-on-one assistance could be a big seller in deciding to give a consumer electronics gift to someone who isn't tech savvy.
Best Buy is also starting to test same-day delivery in San Francisco. It's using a third-party provider. It's not ready to take Prime Now head-on. However, it's ready to take on Amazon. The only real barrier is if it can get its prices low enough as it competes against Amazon's low-overhead model.
The country's largest retailer isn't following Best Buy into no minimums for free shipping. It prefers to push in-store pickups. Why not? It's sprucing up its stores with more holiday spirit than it has in the past, complete with in-store Santas.
However, earlier this year it did launch an Amazon Prime competitor. For $50 a year -- half of Amazon Prime's current price tag -- Wal-Mart offers unlimited three-day shipping at no additional cost.
Wal-Mart ShippingPass isn't perfect. Three days is one more day than Amazon Prime members need to wait, and ShippingPass doesn't have all of the digital goodies that has helped Prime draw more than 40 million subscribers. It's still a smart play. Bricks-and-mortar chain can't let Amazon have all of the fun this festive season.
Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.