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Retailers Fire First Holiday Salvos

NEW YORK – Just days before Halloween’s end – the newest launch point for the holiday selling season – a handful of retailers were first out of the starting gate with their fourth-quarter plans.

First of the first was Target, which formally kicked off the holiday season with an early present to shoppers: free shipping on all online orders through Dec. 20.

Target’s digital-heavy holiday strategy also includes updated mobile apps, an expanded selection of online items available for in-store pickup, and a stepped-up social marketing campaign.

The online focus reflects a 40 percent increase in digital-channel conversion this year, the discounter said.

“We’ve been building capabilities that put us in a strong starting position, including the right digital tools and a broad assortment of unique, on-trend merchandise,” said Brian Cornell, chairman/CEO of Target and a former president/CEO of Sam’s Club.

Plans include extending in-store pickup to some 65,000 products, 80 percent of which can be fulfilled within an hour. The company is also relaunching its mobile apps with streamlined checkout including Apple Pay, and improved functionality for interactive store maps and shopping lists.

In addition, Target will again extend its price-match policy beyond its week-long window to span the Nov. 1 through Dec. 24 timeframe.

Within CE, Target is touting Beats by Dr. Dre, the “Skylanders Trap Team” video game, Apple’s iPhone and exclusive cases by Brooklyn-based graphic designer Dana Tanamachi as “top electronics gifts for all ages.”

Not surprisingly, is also gearing up for Q4, as founder/CEO Jeff Bezos observed in the company’s recent Q3 announcement. “As we get ready for this upcoming holiday season, we are focused on making the customer experience easier and more stress-free than ever,” he said “In addition to our already low prices, we will offer more than 15,000 Lightning Deals with early access to select deals for Prime members, hundreds of millions of products across dozens of categories, curated gift lists like Holiday Toy List and Electronics Holiday Gift Guide, new features like #AmazonWishList, and a great new lineup of products like Kindle Voyage and Fire HD Kids Edition.” also entered the fray by accurately declaring this month “Black November” for the sixth consecutive year. The promotional program includes a series of weekly discounts, and will culminate Nov. 28 in an on-site charity event at its Los Angeles distribution and will-call center that will feature special deals and tie-ins to Give Back Box, which induces donations to Goodwill.

To kick things off, the IT, CE and “other” e-tailer partnered with PayPal to offer $20 off orders of $200 or more this past weekend.

“Black November is Newegg’s way of rewarding its customers with deep discounts offered throughout the entire month of November,” said Newegg chief marketing officer Soren Mills. “We expect a strong holiday purchasing season and we’re delivering a non-stop supply of great deals to meet that demand.”

Elsewhere, just in time for Black November and its advance release of “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” Walmart rolled out a promised selection of pre-owned video game titles as part of its eight-month-old usedgame program. The repurposed titles will be displayed in dedicated sections or sold alongside other value games in 1,700 Walmart locations.

“With 117 million gamers in the U.S., we are constantly looking to provide new and game-changing offerings to those customers,” said Laura Phillips, entertainment senior VP for Walmart U.S.A.

Also spicing up its holiday offering is RadioShack, which will ship out-of stocks direct to customers from other company stores at no extra charge; provide a 15-day price-match guarantee; lengthen its return policy window; extend store hours; provide a host of payment options including a private-label credit card, a rentto- own leasing plan and Apple Pay support; and offer a seasonal assortment that includes smart toys, drones and its traditional remote-control cars.

“Our exclusive lineup of Christmas gifts, expanded assortment of privatelabel products and new industry-leading payment options make RadioShack the smart place to shop this season,” CEO Joe Magnacca said in a statement.