At a time when the thought of holiday crowds might be more frightening than festive, Target is introducing a new safety measure: reservations.
Retailers have adopted a range of protocols to minimize crowds, long lines and repeat shopping trips during the pandemic. Most large retailers offer curbside pickup and contactless checkout to accommodate social distancing, and many have scrapped such Black Friday traditions as Thanksgiving Day openings and "doorbuster" deals to fill their stores. But shopping by appointment is uncommon among retailers.
"We do not anticipate that on a regular basis we'll have to use reservations, but it could be very important during the holiday season," Target chief executive Brian Cornell said on a media call Wednesday. "But some measures, like contact-free shopping, are here to stay."
During the holidays, shoppers can visit Target.com/line to see whether there is a line outside their local store and reserve a spot. They’ll be notified when it’s their turn to shop.
Other new safety measures include contactless self-checkout anywhere in-store through Target’s Wallet app, double the parking for Target’s popular drive-up services, and expanded same-day delivery and pickup offerings, the company said.
This holiday season, Target has said, it plans to keep season hiring in line with last year — about 130,000 positions at its nearly 1,000 stores around the country. But it’s doubling the number of employees helping with curbside and in-store pickup and hiring more full-time and seasonal warehouse employees to meet growing demand.
The Minneapolis-based retailer has seen a windfall in the pandemic as shoppers flocked to its curbside and online services. Last quarter, Target's online and in-store sales rose more than 24%, driving profits up 80% to more than $1.7 billion.
“The success of our business strategy rests on the strength of our team and their ability to adjust quickly to the needs of our guests and their changing shopping patterns,” Melissa Kremer, Target’s chief human resources officer, said in a news release.
There’s a lot riding on the holiday shopping season this year. More than a dozen major retailers have filed for bankruptcy during the pandemic and several others are at risk of running out of cash. The recession wiped out millions of jobs, so Americans are expected to spend less this year — both because of their own financial situations and because there will be fewer opportunities to exchanges gifts with family, friends and co-workers.