UPDATE 2-Target holiday push includes matching online prices

Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:27pm EDT

By Jessica Wohl

NEW YORK Oct 16 (Reuters) - Target Corp will match certain online retailers' prices this holiday season as the discount chain tries to stand out during what could be a fierce fight for shoppers, Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel said on Tuesday.

For the first time, Target will let customers match prices from online retailers, including Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com between Nov. 1 and Dec. 16, the company told reporters at a meeting in New York.

Target had previously matched printed advertisements for prices at competitors' stores, and will still match those prices through Dec. 24.

Target's strategy includes being "highly promotional" and "intensely competitive" on price on items carried by other retailers, while also featuring exclusive merchandise, Steinhafel said.

Like many retailers, Target's holiday season plans include an aggressive push around Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally has served as the start of the holiday shopping season. Target did not say what time its stores will open on Black Friday, but it does plan to give out details early on its special prices, said Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jones.

Commercials for the holiday season include phrases such as "Dream big, save bigger" and "It's On."

Steinhafel also said he is confident Target will meet its financial goals for the year, even though consumer confidence, while rising, remains largely below where it was before the devastating 2007-2009 recession.

Last week, Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary October reading showed consumer sentiment at its highest level in five years.

Like its rivals, Target is taking nothing for granted this holiday season. Earlier this month, Toys R Us said it would offer price matching at its namesake and Babies R Us stores.

DREAMING OF A DESIGNER CHRISTMAS

Target and upscale department store Neiman Marcus Group Inc will sell a joint line of holiday goods, starting on Dec. 1 during what is often a lull for retailers between Black Friday and the last couple of weeks before Christmas.

The items range from dark gray wrapping paper designed by Rodarte, priced at $7.99 per roll, to a $499.99 floral-and-white bicycle with a neon green seat from Alice + Olivia.

Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz said one of the items she plans to buy is a $69.99 metallic pouch from Marc Jacobs.

In order to avoid the out-of-stock and online ordering glitches that overwhelmed Target during the run on Missoni products in 2011, Target and Neiman Marcus are allowing shoppers to buy only up to five of the same item per transaction. All returns must be made by Jan. 5, 2013.

The companies also said that they are sponsoring the Nov. 11 episode of the popular ABC Sunday night show "Revenge" and incorporating products into the episode.

Target will also give its REDcard credit and debit card holders an extra 30 days to return nearly all purchases made with the cards.

Even though Target stopped selling Amazon.com Inc's Kindle ereaders earlier this year, it is not concerned about other partnerships with companies that are also sometimes rivals, said Casey Carl, president of multichannel and senior vice president of marketing.

Target started testing same-day delivery through Ebay Now in the San Francisco Bay Area market on Oct. 10 and now sells a limited number items, both national branded goods and items only sold through Target, on eBay's marketplace section of its site.

But despite the popularity of layaway at other chains, including rival Wal-Mart, Target's shoppers have not asked for layaway - the option of putting an item on hold and paying for it over time, Steinhafel said.

Beyond its Christmas period initiatives, Target has been adding a wider variety of food to more locations, opening smaller city stores and offering a 5 percent discount to its card holders to entice shoppers to visit more often.

Target shares closed on Tuesday at $62.90, up 1.8 percent - outpacing the 0.5 percent gain of the S&P Retail Index.