Big Retail Chains Buff Up Rewards to Compete for Your Holiday Business

As holiday shopping season kicks into gear, retailers are going into overdrive in the battle for your bucks. And with daily deal web sites like Groupon and mobile shopping apps offering so many deals to online shoppers, the big stores are even more desperate to get you through the door.

Many stores are launching new -- and sometimes untested -- loyalty programs, offering cash back or discounts as rewards for shoppers. Sister retailers Sears and Kmart (SHLD) will start offering shoppers 5% back on holiday purchases in-store or online. The program started on Sunday, and will run through Jan. 28 at Sears, but will continue year-round at Kmart, as "the Kmart shopper tends to be more financially pressed than the Sears shopper," says Dave Friedman, senior vice president and president of marketing at Sears Holdings.

Meanwhile, Walmart (WMT), which has been in a sales slump all year, kicked off a Christmas Price Guarantee initiative this month, just as Toys R Us launched what it calls its "biggest rewards program ever." Toys R Us is offering its Rewards "R" Us members a complimentary 2012 Super Savings Pass when they spend $200 or more from Sunday Oct. 30 to Dec. 24. The pass offers members more than $100 in savings in the form of exclusive coupons sent via email each month in 2012. Members can also earn 10% back in "R" Us Dollars for every dollar spent on qualifying holiday products.

With Walmart's Christmas Price Guarantee program, if a shopper buys a product at the chain between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25, only to find that same product advertised for less at another retailer, Walmart will grant that shopper a gift card for the difference through Dec. 25. The program is a first for the retailer.

Unlike straight-up sales, percent-back and rewards programs like these are designed to give shoppers permission to buy more, says Laura Gurski, head of the retail practice for A.T. Kearney, the management consulting firm

Aware that their customers are battle-scarred by recession retailers are feeling the pressure to compete, says Matthew Keylock, senior vice president, new business development and partnerships for Dunnhumby, which creates customer loyalty programs for retailers like Macy's (M). Keylock says that customers today are "distracted" by all the deals cropping up online.

While Walmart's new shopping incentives -- like the other new programs -- are offered online, they're also designed to get shoppers spending in their brick-and-mortar stores, Gurski says.

During holiday 2010, "online retail really stole the show" from brick-and-mortar stores, she says.

In order for retailers to have a happy holiday this season, "stores need to get the foot traffic."

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UNITED STATED of AMERICA ......... SOLD out to big business long time ago.

November 01 2011 at 5:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

HaHaHa, Sears rewards, offer. you have to purchase so much on your Sears Mastercard to get the rewards, then pay the 24% interest, Say No, to Sears, everyone, unless you can stick it to them by charging it to the card, and then turn around the very next day and pay it off..... LOL

November 01 2011 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard Gassen

Get people back to work and they'll spend more. Desperation advertising and promotions really don't work.

November 01 2011 at 11:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

as the rich get richer and control more and more of the nations wealth and the corporate masters continue to send work overseas the big stores better get used to selling less and less. Maybe they better close their doors and get out of the country also.

November 01 2011 at 11:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe they should try paying their employees more, so that they have more money to spend? And crappy loyalty programs don't cut it, who wants to waste time playing games w/their rules and gimmicks, only to get a gift card that you still have to use at that store? Nope, the hell with Christmas and lining the pockets of store managers, ceo's etc, everybody but the people who actually need the money to survive and maybe enjoy life a little bit.

November 01 2011 at 11:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Sorry, big corporations need to pay more if they want us to spend more. The money left is for know, food, clothing, shelter. The rest, all the corporations have it. And NO, I will not buy your products on credit merely because you want me to.

November 01 2011 at 10:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Buy Stephanie-Dawn quilted purses instead of Vera Bradley. VB moved their manufacturing to CHINA for bigger PROFITS and left the people in Northern OH who use to make their purses without jobs. They started their own business and make high quality purses like VB use to be. Check their website. BUY AMERICAN.

November 01 2011 at 10:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I'm giving my xmas $ to small business. Let's here those mega wealthy CEOs whine a little bit more!

November 01 2011 at 10:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to shilohdrive's comment

Irregardless what the CEO's companies profits are, irregardless of how many stores get closed and employees laid off he or she will get their large compensation packages. If they choose to resign they will find another store to bring down. There are truly very few people that can be a successful CEO's or business leaders these days.

November 01 2011 at 11:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here's a great idea, and it supports American jobs and craftsmanship, in addition the local economy--look for small business enterprises, or better yet, go to a HS penny auction, or a church bazaar, lots of gift ideas there, made by church members and donated to the church. Northampton Community College in Bethlehem PA (Christmas city) is having a craft fair in the next two weeks. Search out farm stands -- don't go to the local Target or Wal Mart by pass the mall, Don't go to MACY"S at midnight on thanksgiving. Maybe this will be the year that the stores get the hint. We need to collectively tell the retail greedy basturds to start hiring, stop this part time crap, and start being loyal to the employees instead of the $ALMIGHTY DOLLAR$.

November 01 2011 at 9:35 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jkennedy806's comment

Great idea Kennedy! Lets put Walmart out of business so that all of those clerks and cashiers can then go on welfare. Oh yeah, and think how cool it will be when Walmart tanks and all of us with 401 money invested in their stock take a huge hit as well. And the fact that stores need to hire extra part time help for the holidays is just a scam and we all know it, because we would rather that the stores be short handed during these abnormally busy times so that we can then bitch about standing in long lines and not getting any assistance with our purchases. Did it ever occur to you that alot of us depend upon those seasonal part time jobs to help us get through the winter? You and the morons at the OWS protests are all cast from the same cracked mold!

November 01 2011 at 10:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to davidl1950's comment

and David, what good does it do supporting Walmart, when the wages and benefits they offer to their employees is seldom much better than welfare? Sorry, when I see Walmart's management all the way up to the CEO start earning responsible wages, I might give a damn about Walmart.

November 01 2011 at 11:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

It is the Big Chain stores that destroyed the USA by importing most of what they have in their stores to sell to us.
How do these stores expect us to have JOBS and Money to buy what they have to sell___when those stores gave all the jobs away when they began importing everything they sell?

November 01 2011 at 9:29 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply