Wal-Mart pushes service for holiday; Target stresses value

In this file photo, Gladys Ortega, left, and Ursula Polano, center, both from Paterson, N.J., check out at the register of Dimpal Mandania, at Wal-Mart in Teterboro, N.J. Wal-Mart may be known for its every day low prices but this holiday season it wants to be known for service too, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 | AP photo by Julio Cortez, St. George News

TETERBORO, N.J. (AP) —€” Wal-Mart, long known for emphasizing low prices, wants to be known this holiday season for superior customer service. That comes after its main rival Target, which has a better image in that regard, stressed a focus on offering deals.

The world’s largest retailer plans to deploy “holiday helpers” stationed at the checkouts who can direct customers to registers with shorter lines or even run back to the aisles to pick up an item a customer forgot.

The ways in which Target and Wal-Mart are each trying to be more like the other underscore how traditional retailers have to raise their game in every aspect as shoppers who could easily shop online instead become more demanding about price, selection and service.

Now, they have to be good at everything.

Wal-Mart has been working to improve service in its stores, but it’s especially critical for the holiday season. It’s adding additional staff to handle the pickup of online orders at the stores, and for the first time it’s designating a manager for that area for the holiday season.

In this file photo, a man playing the role of Santa Claus, center, and Karyn Ochiuzzo, right, of Wood-Ridge, N.J., pose for a photo taken by Bill Ochiuzzo at Wal-Mart in Teterboro, N.J. Wal-Mart may be known for its every day low prices but this holiday season it wants to be known for service too, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 | AP  photo by Julio Cortez, St. George News
In this file photo, a man playing the role of Santa Claus, center, and Karyn Ochiuzzo, right, of Wood-Ridge, N.J., pose for a photo taken by Bill Ochiuzzo at Wal-Mart in Teterboro, N.J. Wal-Mart may be known for its every day low prices but this holiday season it wants to be known for service too, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 | AP photo by Julio Cortez, St. George News

It also is dramatically adding more items that will be available for pickup. During the holiday season, Wal-Mart sees five times as many same-day pickup orders compared to a normal week. The goal: To make sure shoppers have an easy experience when they come to collect their orders.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer also plans to have 150,000 product demonstrations across its more than 4,600 U.S. stores, in departments from toys to food. That’s up from last year. And Santas who used to remain stationary in one area of the store will roam around for more customer interaction. It expects about 23,000 appearances across its stores throughout the season.

“We want to serve the customer as they want to be served,” Wal-Mart’s Chief Operating Officer Judith McKenna, said at a store in Teterboro, New Jersey.

Target, meanwhile, said on Oct. 25  that about 60 percent of its marketing message this holiday season will be about value, up about 20 percent from last year. The Minneapolis-based retailer is repeating some of last year’s promotions but also adding new ones aimed at getting shoppers to more areas of the store.

Heading into the holiday shopping season, Wal-Mart has the momentum.

The company raised its profit outlook in August after reporting its eighth consecutive quarterly increase in a key revenue measure. The company has been benefiting from changes like cleaning up its stores and being sharper on prices. Wal-Mart’s move to raise wages and increase training for hourly workers has also helped improve service.

Target, though, had cut its profit forecast as customer traffic fell for the first time in a year and a half during the second quarter. Its key revenue measure also fell, reversing seven straight quarters of gains. It blamed several factors, such as focusing too much on marketing its stylish merchandise and not enough on bringing in customers looking for deals on basics. Both retailers are slated to report third-quarter results next month.

Wal-Mart has been benefiting from better service, and for this holiday season it should be a boon,” said Ken Perkins, president of research firm Retail Metrics LLC. “I expect Wal-Mart will outpace Target. Target has a big price hurdle.”

Target’s move to emphasize value actually comes as Wal-Mart itself has made prices a renewed focus.

Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores, said that just like last year, the company will focus on rollbacks that last 90 days, pulling away from shorter-term promotions. A Roku 32-inch HDTV that was priced at $125 last year during a Black Friday sale will have the same price all season long this year.

Target knows it’s facing a challenge.

“Value is the No. 1 determiner of where a guest will shop,” said Rick Gomez, Target’s senior vice president of marketing.

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Written by ANNE D’INNOCENZIO, Associated Press

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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5 Comments

  • mmsandie November 1, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Went to Walmart in bloomington.had one item but was using a card with money on it when I just returned something.. I went to self service area, worker was standing there didn,t to help me, I asked his to use the card to pay, she was nasty.. And didn,t show me , told me to read the monitor.. I finally figured it out.but won,t use the self service area gain.. The girl in return area was so friendly and nice.. I read about their raises from minimum wage and they said it would bring better service. Well hope it changes for the holiday..

  • ladybugavenger November 1, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    When I worked at the other WalMart, there were nasty people that worked their, so nasty that I quit!

    The employees get chewed out by management and can’t bite back at management so where is that energy going to go? It goes to the customer. That’s why you see disrespectful, inconsiderate, unhappy and rude employees at WalMart, It’s a reflection of management.
    And management favors the nasty dishonest and rude ones…go figure that out. It’s a complete opposite of what they want the public to believe.

    • Rainbow Dash November 4, 2016 at 11:09 am

      i worked at Wal Mart for 3 years and I absolutely agreed with every word of your comment ladybug. I quit and no longer shop there.

  • DB November 1, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    I’ve been going to WalMart less and less. Many grocery items I used to buy have been discontinued, supersized or supersized and then discontinued. I guess they are trying to compete with Costco. I live alone and there is a large retirement community just down the road from the store. We have no need to buy in bulk. If I just need groceries, I’ll go elsewhere. If I need groceries and, say, motor oil, I’ll go to WalMart.

  • Wolverine November 2, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Whenever I’ve shopped at WalMart, I do not equate customer service with my experiences. I doubt they will be able to live up to this challenge. Never say never, but I’m not holding my breath.

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