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Big retailers to launch holiday sales early, hoping to ease inflation fears

People shopped at a Target store in Clifton, N.J, on Nov. 22, 2021. The nation’s two major retailers, Walmart and Target, plan to push deals and other marketing gimmicks for the holiday shopping season earlier than last year as soaring inflation spurs customers to get a jump start on gift giving.Ted Shaffrey/Associated Press


Big retailers to launch holiday sales early

Walmart and Target plan to begin offering deals and price matching offers earlier this year to keep up with Americans pressed by soaring inflation and looking for ways to ease the potential sting of holiday shopping. The holiday sales strategies, announced Thursday, come amid what is expected to be slower holiday sales growth compared with a year ago. Consulting firm AlixPartners forecasts that holiday sales will be up anywhere from 4 percent to 7 percent, far below last year’s growth of 16 percent. The current inflation rate of 8.3 percent means retailers would see a decrease in real sales. Walmart, based in Bentonville, Ark., is offering a wider assortment of items this year with more new brands and more Walmart exclusives than a year ago, according to Tom Ward, the company’s chief e-commerce officer. The company is deepening discounts on such items as toys, home goods, electronics, and beauty. It said that more than half the toys on Walmart’s list of expected hot holiday toys are under $50 – with many under $25 — and nearly all of the toys are available to shop now or through preorder on Target, based in Minneapolis, said it will begin offering holiday deals between Oct. 6 and Oct. 8, a few days earlier than a year ago and it will begin price matching then, also a couple days early. Target plans to hire up to 100,000 seasonal employees in stores and distribution centers this holiday season, in line with a year ago. Walmart is taking a more cautious hiring approach this year, saying this week that it would hire 40,000 US workers for the holidays, a majority of them seasonal workers. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Brookline Booksmith spreads its wings some more

Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner has expanded into the neighboring storefront at 281 Harvard St., the second time the much-loved bookseller has grown in size since the pandemic. The new 800-square-foot space is dedicated to housing the bookstore’s art and design books. The new nook opened to the public on Sept. 16, said co-owner Lisa Gozashti, less than a year after the Booksmith began renting the property from its existing landlord. During construction, the Booksmith removed the wall between the new space and the store’s gift room, the product of their 2020 expansion into the 4,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by a Verizon store. The original storefront, located at 279 Harvard St., is now able to accommodate “many more books than we’ve ever had since our founding,” said Gozashti, with a focus on curating titles in areas like Black studies, Latina studies, and Asian studies. Brookline Booksmith is the latest in a string of local independent bookstores to expand in recent years, partially reversing a long trend of bookstores declining in Boston as online alternatives like Amazon have proliferated. Porter Square Books and Harvard Book Store have both launched new outposts, while a long-planned new bookstore in Beacon Hill is opening this month. — DANA GERBER



No beer ads on Amazon’s Thursday Night Football

To many viewers, Inc.’s first exclusive “Thursday Night Football” game last week looked like a typical NFL broadcast. There were pregame and halftime shows, sideline reporters, and longtime NFL announcer Al Michaels calling the action. But one thing was missing: beer commercials. On a website with its advertising guidelines, Amazon says it prohibits ads that promote wine, beer, and spirits in the United States, and a few other countries, like Canada and Saudi Arabia. That applies to all of its platforms, including Prime Video. “Ad content must not encourage, glamorize or depict excessive consumption of alcohol,” it says. The idea of an NFL game without a beer commercial is “unheard of,” said Brad Adgate, a media consultant and veteran observer of the ad industry. “They go hand in hand.” Breweries are still advertising on other NFL broadcasters. Beer brands have spent $60 million on TV commercials in the last two weeks, and 70 percent of that spending went to NFL programming, according to the measurement firm ― BLOOMBERG NEWS


Jeff Bezos attends "The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power" world premiere in Leicester Square on August 30, 2022 in London, England. Gareth Cattermole/Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images


Bezos, Jassy must testify in Amazon Prime probe

Federal regulators are ordering Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and chief executive Andy Jassy to testify in the government’s investigation of Amazon Prime, rejecting the company’s complaint that the executives are being unfairly harassed in the probe of the popular streaming and shopping service. The Federal Trade Commission issued an order late Wednesday denying Amazon’s request to cancel civil subpoenas sent in June to Bezos, the Seattle-based company’s former chief executive, and Jassy. Amazon hasn’t made the case that the subpoenas “present undue burdens in terms of scope or timing,” FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson said in the order on behalf of the agency. However, the FTC did agree to modify some provisions of the subpoenas that it acknowledged appeared too broad. The FTC has been investigating since March 2021 the sign-up and cancellation practices of Amazon Prime, which has an estimated 200 million members around the globe. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



FedEx aims to make $2.7 billion in cuts

FedEx Corp. expects to save as much as $2.7 billion this fiscal year through wide-ranging cost-cutting measures in response to weakening business conditions. The courier said about $700 million of the savings will come this quarter through actions including a reduction in flight frequencies, deferred projects, and the closure of some offices, according to a regulatory filing Thursday. The actions are in line with those sketched out last week when the company revealed preliminary earnings that fell well short of Wall Street’s expectations. FedEx also plans to increase delivery rates across its express, ground, and home delivery operations by an average of 6.9 percent in January. FedEx is grappling with slowing demand in addition to numerous challenges, including a tight labor market that has pushed up costs and unrest in its network of contractors who deliver packages by truck. ― BLOOMBERG NEWS


Bank of England raises interest rates by another half percent

As Britain goes through a period of vast change, with a new government and new monarch, the central bank is steadily increasing interest rates to try to keep high inflation from becoming embedded in the nation’s economy. The Bank of England raised its key rate by another half a percentage point Thursday, to 2.25 percent, taking it to the highest level since late 2008, but disappointing some who thought it would have made a three-quarter-point move. In Britain, consumer prices rose 9.9 percent in August from a year earlier, slowing slightly from the previous month but still near the fastest pace of inflation in four decades, as energy and food prices climbed higher. The British economy’s state of flux was evident in a rare three-way split among the Bank of England’s nine-person rate-setting committee, with members voting for both smaller and larger increases in the policy rate. The changes coming to Britain include the government freezing energy bills and planning to cut taxes to lessen the pain of the higher cost of living. At the same time, the pound has fallen to its weakest level against the dollar since 1985 as investors question the country’s economic outlook and fiscal policy, and despite a tight labor market, a recession seems inevitable. ― NEW YORK TIMES