Walmart is battling Amazon this holiday season by offering shoppers something new: Santas.
Walmart is deploying Santa Clauses to 3,600 of its supercenter stores in December, NBC News reports.
It will be the first time that the retailer has offered an in-store experience with Santa Claus.
Customers will be able to take photos with the Santas, which will be in stores during the first two weekends of December.
The retailer is also planning to ramp up the seasonal cheer in stores by playing holiday music over the loudspeakers and offering food tastings and toy demonstrations, Walmart executives said.
“I want customers to be in awe when they see what we have to offer as they walk into our stores or click around our site,” Judith McKenna, chief operating officer of Walmart US, said in a release. “We’re delivering the prices customers expect, but we’ve taken it up a notch.”
Walmart is deploying the Santas to give shoppers a reason to visit Walmart instead of buying online from Amazon this holiday season.
Walmart is five times the size of Amazon, but Walmart’s online sales are still a tiny fraction of the size of Amazon’s.
Walmart’s online sales were $US12.2 billion in 2014. By comparison, Amazon’s were $US89 billion.
The world’s largest retailer is tired of losing to Amazon when it comes to web sales, so it has been pouring billions of dollars into its online operations in recent years.
This year, Walmart plans to invest between $US1.2 billion and $US1.5 billion in its ecommerce business, Walmart Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley told analysts in February. The company will spend even more next year, he said.
Walmart has been using the money to make its website more user-friendly, open additional ecommerce fulfillment centres around the US, and expand the number of products available for purchase on its website.
Walmart also has also begun authorizing store managers to match prices found on Amazon and other websites to better compete with its rivals.
This summer, the company tried a new tactic by criticising Amazon head-on and trying to erode its loyal customer base.
After Amazon announced that it would have a Black Friday-style sale for Prime members in July, Walmart stole its fire by offering its own shopping event — starting on the same day — with thousands of online-exclusive discounts.
In announcing its sale, Walmart chided Amazon for making “Prime Day” available only to Prime members, who pay $US99 a year for free two-day shipping and other perks.
“We’ve heard some retailers are charging $US100 to get access to a sale,” Walmart.com CEO Fernando Madeira wrote in a blog post. “But the idea of asking customers to pay extra in order to save money just doesn’t add up for us. We’re standing up for our customers and everyone else who sees no rhyme or reason for paying a premium to save.”
The attack got a rise out of Amazon, which responded by accusing Wal-Mart of charging customers higher prices in stores than they do online.
It remains to be seen how Amazon will respond to Walmart’s deployment of thousands of Santas this holiday season.
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