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Target's plan to win Christmas: '10 days of deals,' more Spanish-language ads, and a musical with John Legend

By Sarah Halzack

October 25, 2016 at 3:00 PM

An array of Target’s holiday merchandise is displayed at the retailer’s office in New York. (Sarah Halzack/The Washington Post)

NEW YORK — The consumer landscape may be looking better, but Target is not betting that's going to curb customers' insatiable appetite for deals during the upcoming holiday shopping rush.

During a presentation here Tuesday outlining the retailer's strategy for the season, chief executive Brian Cornell said "it's a great time to be a consumer" in the U.S., citing factors such as cheap gas, falling food prices and low unemployment.

Yet the big-box chain expects promotions will still be the top driver of traffic to its stores, and it has developed its tactics accordingly.

The retailer plans to bring back the "10 days of deals" offering, which last year started the Monday before Thanksgiving and included a single daily deal such as "20 percent off kitchenware."  And, for the first time, it will offer category-specific deals throughout the season such as "spend $50 on apparel and accessories, save $10."

This approach in part reflects what the company said it learned from last year's holiday deals blitz:

"One of the things that really stood out for us is that simple wins," Cornell said.

Target will also be offering an additional week of free shipping on all purchases, a promotion it has used in recent years to try to win over e-commerce shoppers.

As it begins its annual effort to get you in the Christmas spirit, Target is betting that the highly contentious presidential campaign might be on shoppers' minds.

"We do not want to be tone-deaf," said Rick Gomez, senior vice president of brand and marketing.

That means they'll be focusing pre-Election Day ads in places where people are already in something of an escapist frame of mind. In the digital realm, that means Pinterest; on television, that means starting on Food Network and HGTV. They'll also be advertising in 30,000 movie theaters across the country.

During the holiday season overall, Target will be ramping up its overall TV ad spending 21 percent compared to 2015. The splashiest example of its marketing investment will come on Dec. 11, when the retailer has bought two, four-minute commercial spots during the broadcast premiere of Disney's wildly popular "Frozen" movie. Target's spots include a Nutcracker-themed musical starring John Legend and Chrissy Teigen.

There will be subtler efforts, too, to court shoppers via TV. Target is spending more this year on commercials during NFL games. And it is spending 67 percent more on Spanish language TV ads, part of the chain's ongoing attempt to reach Hispanic shoppers — especially those that are millennial moms.

You can also see Target's effort to cater to America's changing demographics with its holiday toy lineup: Mark Tritton, the retailer's chief merchandising officer, said the retailer is doubling its offering of ethnically diverse dolls this year in order to appeal to a wider range of shoppers.

Target is expecting another big Christmas for toys, betting it will stand out from some of its competitors by investing in some 1,800 exclusive items this season. It will be counting on exclusives to attract customers in other areas, too: In particular, it is peddling a 10-disc box set featuring country star Garth Brooks that it hopes will catch fire the way its deluxe edition of the new Adele album did last holiday season.

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Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.

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