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Amazon vs Walmart Weekly: The Fall to End Them All

In life, as in retail, there are two types of “falls.”

First, there’s the autumnal variety that includes a post-summer return to normal work and school schedules as well as colorful leaves, and cooler and shorter days.

Then there’s the Humpty Dumpty version of a great fall, with all the ominous economic precedent that comes with the month of October.  

While there is no way of knowing which version — or maybe even both — of a great fall will emerge in the coming months, the top two retailers are gearing up for what is set to be a hard-fought sprint to the holiday finish line.

This uncertainty overhang is as palpable as it is widespread and was reflected in the fittingly conflicted weakness that was revealed in the last major economic data point of the month — the tepid Personal Income and Spending report revealed today (Aug. 26) — that was in direct contrast with the bullish hiring headlines that opened August three weeks ago.

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While the level of stress and uncertainty overhanging the second half of 2022 resembles the anxiety that overshadowed the same period in 2021, the drivers of that collective angst are polar opposites. 

Where last year the primary retail stress point was based around supply chain issues, a lack of inventory, and being left short, this year’s inverse worry is about being left with too much at the exact time when consumers are scaling back and curtailing their spending.

This “great fall” dichotomy is currently playing out in two ways among Amazon and Walmart, with the former making moves to shore up its economically defensive cushion via its push into healthcare, and the latter making a string of more offensively minded moves and announcements aimed at getting customers in-store and buying more than milk, bread and groceries.

For Amazon, the week opened with reports that it was among a number of bidders interested in pursuing a possible $8 billion acquisition of Signify Health. Just two days later, that healthcare hiccup took another twist when word came out that it planned to sunset its Amazon Care business, just one month after it bought the chain of primary care practices of One Medical.  

While that news caused initial confusion to some market watchers, PYMNTS quickly clarified that Amazon’s changes were part of a broader shot in the arm for its healthcare ambitions, not least of which were tied to the growth of its Amazon Pay services, that would bring a level of one-click efficiency and BNPL-style financing and affordability to an industry that lacks both.

For Walmart’s part, the ramp-up of the list of perks it is offering subscribers to its Walmart+ service continued to grow, with the addition of a new rewards program.

“We know our customers and members are mindfully managing their budgets these days,” said Chris Cracchiolo, SVP and general manager of Walmart+, noting the compounding value that the latest perk is designed to deliver, which itself comes just a week after the prior announcement concerning the addition of free access to Paramount media content starting next month.

Add in the creation and launch of a new book club, and the retail giant’s efforts to round out its omnichannel traffic-boosting appeal for the fall starts to come into focus.

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About: The findings in PYMNTS’ new study, “The Super App Shift: How Consumers Want To Save, Shop And Spend In The Connected Economy,” a collaboration with PayPal, analyzed the responses from 9,904 consumers in Australia, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. and showed strong demand for a single multifunctional super apps rather than using dozens of individuals ones.


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