Target offering free shipping and returns in new threat to Walmart

Christmas Shopping Season is Underway
Photograph by Scott Olson — Getty Images

Target (TGT) unveiled a new weapon in its holiday season e-commerce battle with Walmart (WMT): free shipping and returns.

From November 1 through Christmas Day, Target said on Thursday it is once again waiving any minimum order size requirement to qualify for free shipping as well as offering free returns, moves that could give it an edge over its larger rival during the ultra-competitive Christmas period.

Walmart said earlier in the day it would only offer free shipping on orders of at least $50, adding that it offered free in-store pick up at thousands of locations and that, in any case, most orders were big enough to qualify for the waiver. Though Walmart gets a higher percentage of its U.S. sales online than Target, the rate of growth at Target is much higher.

Target sees free shipping during the holidays as a necessary cost to win shoppers. (Best Buy (BBY) is also waiving its order minimum during the season.) But Walmart appears to be betting that steering shoppers toward in-store pickup will lead to more impulse purchases.

Though Target closed the last of its Canadian stores earlier this year, it is returning to that market, in addition to about 200 others, including China and Brazil, starting this holiday season by shipping items ordered on its U.S. site for a fee.

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