Firing a pre-emptive strike at its rivals' holiday pricing gimmicks, Walmart on Monday unveiled a new type of Christmas price-match guarantee.
The nation's dominant retailer pledged to pay the difference between holiday goods it sells after Oct. 31 and any lower price advertised by another store at any time through Dec. 25.
The intent: reward people who buy early and discourage shopping around or waiting for prices to drop closer to Christmas.
"This takes away any worries a shopper will find an item at a lower price later in the season," said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising officer for the discount store giant. "It makes for a stress-free holiday shopping experience."
It's one more harbinger that with consumers feeling stretched and retailers stocking up only minimally more than last year, this holiday season will be one of the more promotional of the past decade.
Walmart, under the gun to improve its performance, made the move because of "the heavy intensity of promotions we've seen already" from other stores, said Mac Naughton, noting that Walmart deployed holiday goods two weeks earlier this year and doubled last season's ad budget.
Walmart clerks already can match rivals' advertised prices at the checkout register. So do many of its rivals. But Walmart is upping the ante by offering to pay the difference in cash on a gift card (which won't be issued until after Christmas Day).
There are so many exceptions it pays to read the fine print. A rival's price must be in a printed ad for the same brand, size, color and stocked in the competitor's local stores. Prices will not be matched with online sites.
Halloween spending is forecast to rise slightly to $6.9 billion this year. But that doesn't mean people will stick to necessities for a holiday celebrated by seven of 10 Americans.
The average household plans to spend $21 on candy, $5 on greeting cards and $20 on decorations, estimates the National Retail Federation. It is the second-biggest decorating holiday behind Christmas. The average costume budget is $26 per get-up, with $2.2 billion for humans and $310 million for pets.
The phrase "I'm parked way out in Goofy" is headed for the same extinction as "E-ticket rides" at Walt Disney World.
The theme park renamed the sections in the 12,000-space parking lot at the Magic Kingdom.
Gone are the names of dwarves and all but two of the "classic" cartoon characters. In are newer characters (and bigger-selling Disney consumer product brands) relevant to today's kids including Aladdin and Simba.