Aug 30, 2022 - Economy & Business

Holiday shopping season starts early amid inflation

Walmart toy aisle with a sign that says "Low prices you love"
Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The holiday shopping season is getting off to an earlier start this year as consumers stung by high inflation attempt to stretch their budgets.

Driving the news: Walmart unwrapped its annual top toy list Tuesday, nearly a month earlier than last year, with the addition of a new budget-friendly category — toys under $25.

  • The majority of the 55 toys on the list can be purchased or preordered online.
  • Like in past years, Walmart's list includes Lego, Hot Wheels and Barbie toys along with trending products from Cocomelon, L.O.L. Surprise and Magic Mixies.
  • Walmart said the list includes "more Rollbacks on toys" to give consumers "deeper savings" on top of "everyday low prices."

The big picture: Expect the toy wars to heat up this year with Macy's adding Toys R Us shops to every store by Oct. 15.

By the numbers: Online prices declined by 1% in July, compared with a year earlier, according to the Adobe Digital Price Index released Aug. 9, which marked the first decline in the index in 25 months, Axios' Nathan Bomey reports.

  • Toy prices were down 8.2% over the previous 12 months, while apparel prices slid 1%.

State of play: Christmas trees and décor are already on display at Costco and Sam’s Club locations and Home Depot rolled out holiday items online in mid-July.

Flashback: Hot toy lists have been accurate in past years in predicting what toys children will put on their wish lists, with many selling out weeks ahead of Christmas.

What they're saying: "We've really focused our items on value so over half of the items within the top toys list are under $50 and many of those are under $25," Jessica Mireles, Walmart's senior merchandising director of toys, said in an interview with Axios.

  • "We've been working closely with our suppliers and we feel really good about the stock and having those key items available for customers throughout the holiday season," Mireles said.
  • Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, told Axios that he thinks holiday shopping will start earlier with consumers wanting to spread out their purchases over a longer period and also avoid delays.
  • "Retailers will be keen to get sales in early to secure their share of more subdued consumer spending," Saunders said. "Consumers should look for good bargains and early offers and take those when they can, especially for products that are not seasonal like toys and electronics."

Meanwhile, ad tech giant InMobi says this year could be the first when the "Cyber 5" — the shopping period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday — is not a critical measure of holiday sales.

Our thought bubble: Stores continue to mark down excess inventory, which can help consumers save on early holiday shopping and stocking up.

Between the lines: Retailers' return policies vary and if you shop early the return period could expire before Christmas.

  • Extended holiday return periods typically start later in the year in either October or November depending on the retailer.

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