Welcome to Walmart, Santa

You might see a different Walmart this Christmas. Uncle Wally is going all in for Christmas. There will be more Christmas music played in the stores. Festive decorations will be everywhere and not just for sale. And Santa will be there, with bells on, no doubt.

Walmart is bringing on 3600 Santas for two weekends in December, all a part of what managers there call “holiday retailtainment”. It is part of a strategy Walmart is embracing to combat the relentless efforts of Amazon.com to be the king of Christmas. By creating the atmosphere of Christmas in the stores Walmart is betting customers will prefer it to the cold screen of discounts offered by Amazon.

Walmart has had a lousy year. And they smell a lousy Christmas coming.

So they are pulling out all the stops, even the Big Guy. Santa will be there for pictures and Walmart hopes it puts more shoppers in the stores.

But can your average Walmart employee pull off Santa? Just where is Walmart going to find 3600 Santas? (We’re just waiting for the first Walmart Santa disaster stories to hit the media).

The gimmick might or might not work. But for consumers spending real money Walmart is one they watch closely. And many are already ticked.

Walmart is arrogant enough to think they can be Amazon, Costco and Walmart combined. They want to be the best online seller, like Amazon, the volume leader, like Costco, and the low price leader, like themselves. In the end, they do none of these things especially well.

For example, they recently launched their Wonder of Christmas toy book, a fantastic assortment of toys picked out by kids. The problem isn’t the selection. The problem is that Walmart will price some toys the same online as they do in stores. Other toys will be priced differently. Some will be available online only. Some will only be available in stores. For consumers this is all a nightmare to deal with.

Walmart announced earlier that they will not be offering free shipping for the early weeks of Christmas shopping 2015. Instead they will emphasize “ship to store” options, again in an effort to put more shoppers in the stores. 83 percent of online shoppers demand free shipping in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Walmart is going to pretend they don’t exist.

So don’t expect a Merry Christmas at Walmart this year.

But be sure to tell Santa hello when you see him.

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