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Retailers are hoping that Amazon's Prime Day will kick off Tuesday with the early Christmas procuring season

An Amazon Prime package.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Contributor

A late Amazon Prime Day means an early start to this week's Christmas shopping season.

The annual shopping event has become a holiday in its own right. July 15 – one of last year's Prime Days – is only behind Cyber ​​Monday and Black Friday for online purchases last year, according to retail research firm NPD Group. It will last two days this year, starting at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday and going through Wednesday.

Retailers are preparing for an early start to their vacation by choosing products to advertise, using technical tools to manage their supply chain, and preparing employees. By dangling great deals, they hope to delight early vacation buyers and add an important season to their bottom line.

Analysts predict the e-commerce event will be the biggest in Amazon's history as more Americans expand their searches for Christmas gifts and, due to the pandemic, do more of them online than in previous years. According to analysts at JPMorgan, Amazon's Prime Day sales are projected to grow to around $ 7.5 billion, a 42% increase from estimated sales of $ 5.3 billion last year. This was Amazon's largest global shopping event.

Robby Ohmes, a discount retail analyst for Bank of America Securities, said retailers large and small wanted to "participate in this energy." The goal will be "Deal Days" and Best Buy will start Black Friday sales on the same days. Walmart will have its "Big Save Event" starting at 7pm. ET Sunday through Thursday.

"[Amazon] Prime Day is helping everyone who sells online," he said. "It brings everyone to the table and everyone does something special to participate."

The right stuff

This year retailers had to predict what consumers could buy as gifts and for themselves during an economic and health crisis.

Ashwani Monga, a marketing professor at Rutgers University in Newark who studies consumer psychology, said the typical rule of thumb in gift giving – buying things people wouldn't buy for themselves – could be turned on its head.

He said he expected more practical gifts from shoppers than usual: think winter coats, snowshoes, and hiking gear for friends and family to gather outside in the cooler months. They also look for kitchen utensils that encourage cooking when family and friends stay away from restaurants. A fire pit could be on their gift list this year, turning a backyard into a cozy destination for neighbors to gather around but stay socially aloof.

On the flip side, retailers could use promotions to push items that customers largely ignored during the pandemic – like dresses and watches – that appeal to their hopes of a return to normal life.

Retailers' early listing lists range from toys to household tools. Walmart's list includes, for example, a Super Mario Party video game for Nintendo Switch for $ 39.99, a Pioneer Woman 6L Instant Pot for $ 49, a Tzumi Ion Robotic Vacuum for $ 99, and ladies – Hunter rain boots for $ 69.99.

Some of the discounted items from Best Buy, e.g. B. Laptops starting at $ 119.99 could serve as accessories for the home office or the remote classroom.

Use data

The use of technology by retailers has become more prominent this holiday season, said Jill Standish, who leads Accenture's retail practice. She said that almost every retailer will be relying on advanced analytics, machine learning, and new sources of customer data to smooth their operations as they enter the busy phase.

They also need to figure out where to put their inventory so that consumers can buy a toy in-store, have it delivered to their doorstep, or pick it up at the roadside.

"If you're a retailer right now, we're going into a fog," she said. "The only thing you need when you are flying into a fog is instrumentation."

Retailers can use these sophisticated tools to guide techniques from grouping similar items in the warehouse to reducing split shipments, she said.

Dan McKone, executive director of consulting firm L.E.K., said retailers can count on heavily discounted products sold at a higher price and stock levels accordingly. You can go a step further using technology and identify correlations between what customers typically put in their virtual shopping cart when they purchase a particular sale item. You can run forecast scenarios to minimize out-of-stock goods. And they can search search data for clues that indicate where buyers click.

Retailers could expect a gradual increase in ecommerce sales each holiday season as more sales move online. This year, he said, the pandemic makes that more of an educated guess.

occupation

Big box retailers and Amazon tried to keep up with the deluge of packaging and shipping during the pandemic. Starting this week with Prime Day, prepare to shop online. That means thousands of attitudes and different expectations of employees.

Amazon was preparing for an earlier and longer "high season" by filling its warehouses and demanding overtime from employees. The company hired 175,000 warehouse and delivery workers during the pandemic, more than 70% of whom will remain. It opened more than 150 last-mile delivery stations between March and October, which could help get packages to vacation shoppers' doors faster.

Walmart is making its first significant vacation referral effort in five years, despite a spree during the pandemic. 20,000 seasonal employees will be added to work in the fulfillment centers. The company has hired more than 500,000 people at its locations in the USA since March.

And Target expects to hire around 130,000 seasonal workers for the holidays, roughly as many as last holiday season, and to give its employees extra hours. However, more of them have online shopping job descriptions. Compared to the first half of the year, twice as many Target employees will pick up online purchases on the same day at the roadside and in the store. Additional employees will work in distribution centers to ensure that the items are in stock in the stores and ready for dispatch. And the store's staff are trained to do an online purchase for a customer's car or to pack up a box to ship to their doorstep.

Brian Cornell, CEO of Target, said a major theme of the pandemic will impact the holidays: flexibility. He said the retailer and its workforce would stay nimble as the outlook remains unclear.

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