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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Daily Deals Option-Who's Worth Subscribing To?

With the increase in online retail shopping, the Big-3 of American retail have begun offering "daily deals" which are available, online only, for their shoppers. The idea is to increase visits to the retailer's website, and hopefully get people to purchase more goods online. But who offers the best deals?

Target: Target's daily deals are an email service, in which shoppers subscribe in order to receive deals in their email on a daily basis. These deals usually include a "big" deal which is highlighted in the email, as well as a succession of smaller deals. One of the nicest factors of Target's daily deals is that free shipping is automatic with any daily deal purchase, thereby enticing shoppers to purchase things online that they may have elected to purchase in store instead. Target's daily deals often include such things as linens,  toys, electronics, and sporting goods items.

Walmart: Walmart offers a single daily deal, placed on their website. It is easily accessible through the homepage, and often accentuated to attract shoppers. The downside to Walmart's offering, however, is that it often is a specialized item, such as baby toys or food, or women's or men's clothing. Therefore, a subscription to Walmart's service is probably unnecessary, as the majority of deals will not appeal to the average consumer. However, for those looking for specialty items, bookmarking Walmart's deal page on your internet browser may be a good idea.

Kmart: Kmart offers daily deals to their members with a Shop Your Way Rewards card, usually in the form of two new deals a day. Kmart's deals are generally balanced among all store departments, with electronics and jewelry generally being the two most popular categories. Kmart's deal often also feature the steepest discounts of any of the retail store deals. The downside of these deals is that they do not appear to be available online.

Verdict: Target. Target offers the highest number of deals, as well as the most convenient deals, as they can be purchased online with no additional shipping charge. Target's deals are an easy option for the busy bargain shopper.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Treadmills-Who among the Big-3 can keep you in the best shape?

As Americans become more health conscious as a society, many people look for ways to improve their physical fitness. One popular way is through cardiovascular exercise, and many people seek to purchase a treadmill for home use in lieu of a gym membership. But who among Target, Walmart, and Kmart provides the best quality and value?

Walmart: Walmart offers the Cadence G 5.9 Treadmill, priced at a very competitive $287. The treadmill includes 6 different personal trainer workouts included, and comfort cell cushioning to reduce the impact on a runner's joints. For those who enjoy tracking their heart rate during a workout, that is also included in the treadmill package. The treadmill receives very good reviews, with a 4.3 out of 5 average. It comes with a 1 year limited warranty upon purchase.

 Walmart's Cadence Treadmill

Target: Target offers an enhanced version of the Cadence Treadmill found at Walmart, the Cadence C44. The C44 is priced at $399. It includes an LCD display, however it does not have personal training workouts included. It also includes a heart rate monitor. It is constructed with steel, and is very durable. Target provides a 90 day manufacturers warrant on the treadmill. 

Target's Cadence Treadmill

Kmart: Kmart offers the CrossWalk 5.0 treadmill, which is made by Weslo. It is priced at $299. The treadmill includes 4 built in workout programs, and a 2.25hp motor. It also includes the "easy pulse" heart-rate monitor. Its most unique feature is the crosswalk arms, which allow a user to work their arms as well as their legs, allowing for more calorie burning. Kmart provides a 90 day warranty on the treadmill.

Verdict: Walmart. Walmart's treadmill is the lowest priced, and includes the best warranty. While each treadmill has respectable features (with the crosswalk arms being especially innovative) Walmart's low price and long-term warranty make it the best option for treadmills. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Blu-Ray Players: Price and Quality among the Big 3

With the ever-growing popularity of High Definition Television, Blu-Ray players have only grown in demand. With the ability of some Blu-Ray players to stream movies directly from the internet, via Netflix, Blockbuster, or other rental services, the demand has further increased. All of the major mass retailers offer Blu-Ray players in their stores, however differences can be seen in price and quality, as well as warranty and service. For the purposes of this post, Blu-Ray players can be separated into two groups–those which are capable of instant streaming, and those which are not.

Target: Target's entry level Blu-Ray player is made by Vizio, and is priced at $100. The player is equipped with an ethernet port, for wired connection to the internet, however it is not capable of wirelessly streaming movies. Once hooked up to the internet, the player receives very positive reviews for its streaming capabilities. Target also offers an entry level Samsung player for $110, although this one is not capable of being connected to the internet.

For wireless-ready users, Target offers an upgraded Vizio player, for $139. This player is based around the same model as the entry-level one, however with wireless capabilities included, and also receives positive reviews.

Target also offers replacement plans for their Blu-Ray players, which cost $17, and are good for 2 years after the purchase. Target will replace any players that have failed due to defect, electricity surges, or other causes outside of user error. Target also offers customers the option to buy service plans, in 2 or 3 year increments, however most Blu-Ray players are inexpensive enough to be replaced by Target, rather than repaired.

Target's Vizio Blu-Ray Player

Walmart: Walmart's entry level Blu-Ray is the LG BD550, which is priced at $99. Remarkably similar to Target's entry level model, the LG is likewise capable of a wired connection to the internet, however it cannot wirelessly stream movies. The player also has very positive reviews, and is reported to be easy to use, fast, and durable. 

Walmart's wireless option is the Phillips BDP5320, which is priced at $159.99. The player is capable of streaming from Netflix and Blockbuster, among others, and also features "easy link" technology, which allows a user to synchronize the majority of their remotes through the player itself. 

Walmart also offers replacement plans for their Blu-Ray players, which differ in price relative to the cost of the player. They range from $17, for the entry-level player, to $25, for the wireless-capable player. 

Walmart's Phillips Blu-Ray Player

Kmart: Kmart's entry into the Blu-Ray player market is a Sony BDPS360, and is the best reviewed Blu-Ray player in the entry-level stage. It is priced at $99. The Sony player is not capable of wireless access, however it can connect via an ethernet cable to the internet in order to play movies online. 

For its instant-streaming ready player, Kmart offers the Yamaha BD-S667BL. This player costs $270, and is more advanced than Target and Walmart's initial internet-streaming offerings. However, Kmart does not offer an option for an "intermediate" level player, jumping from entry-level to advanced. 

Verdict: Target. While the entry-level players offered by each store are nearly identical, Target's $139 instant-streaming player is the best value of its kind on the market today. Also, Target's warranties are clear, easy to purchase, and cheap. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter Jackets-What store can help you stay warm, look good, and do it for less?

With an astounding 49 out of 50 states currently covered by snow, many people find themselves searching around retail stores for warm weather clothing. But who offers the best options for winter dress?

Warmth: For those who are looking for extreme cold weather gear, Walmart, Target, and Kmart all offer options. For men, Walmart offers an insulated jacket by Dickies, complete with hood and down lining, for $43. Target offers a puffer jacket by C9 for $35, and Kmart offers a puffer jacket by Canyon River Blues for $20, or a snowboarding jacket from Zero Xposur for $64.

Verdict: Walmart. The Dickies jacket is well lined, made of a durable material, and includes a hood. The jackets at Kmart are a close second, although the Canyon River Blues jacket has mixed reviews, as some cite its tear-ability. Target offers few options for those looking for warmth, having opted instead for more stylish jackets.

Style: As with any other item, jacket styling is largely subjective. Each store has developed a certain "theme" to their jackets, appealing to different consumers. Walmart features a large stock of both work jackets (such as the Dickies one featured above) and track jackets, targeting hard working people who have physical jobs or enjoy physical activity. Kmart has a large selection of leather jackets, which range from stylish blazers to motorcycle jackets. Target has the largest selection of stylish jackets, which include leather, wool, fatigue jackets, and track jackets.

Verdict: Mixed. While each store offers a selection of stylish jackets, individual preference will determine which customer prefers which store's jacket offerings.

Price: Kmart offers the cheapest jacket of the three stores, with its Canyon River Blues jacket costing only $20, compared to $35 for a similar jacket at Target. Many of Walmart's jackets carry higher price tags, but this reflects Walmart's decision to offer more work related clothing that requires more material to assemble. Target's jackets are also a bit more expensive, reflecting their decision to approach a more "stylish" consumer.

Verdict: Kmart. Kmart's jacket represents the absolute least one could pay for a warm winter jacket. While Target and Walmart both have valid reasons for the higher prices of their jackets, Kmart's prices reign supreme.

Overall: For a bargain shopper, Kmart offers the best solution for coats, as they have the cheapest product that will still keep one warm in the winter weather. However, for the hard-working, or active consumers, Walmart may offer the best option. Target offers many stylish options for winter clothing, however one must be careful not to trade warmth for style.

 Target's C9 Puffer Jacket

 Kmart's Canyon River Blues Jacket

 Walmart's Dickies Jacket

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

K-Mart's New Rewards Program-Cutting Edge, or Rip-Off?

Although mass retailer Kmart once stood as one of the largest companies in America (holding a larger market share than Walmart at one point) it has recently fallen on hard times. Many blame Kmart's reluctance to modernize their stores and product, while its competitors have, for the recent decline. In an effort to separate itself from its two strongest competitors, Kmart has introduced a new rewards program, entitled "Shop Your Way Rewards."

Shop Your Way Rewards is free to join, and rewards Kmart shoppers with "points" every time they make a purchase. These points then translate into Kmart merchandise credit, equivalent to 1% of every purchase made. Along with the 1% return, Shop Your Way Rewards also offers shoppers the chance to win "K-Ching" prizes, which range from a free 20 oz. soda to $100 gift cards.

Although shopper rewards programs are nothing new to retail and convenience stores, Kmart is the first of the Big 3 to introduce one. The benefits of the rewards card can seem appealing, however, there are also pitfalls involving the program. Some members of the rewards program have complained about the returns policy, which can actually force some users into a negative points balance. Merchandise exchanges can also cause problems with the reward points.

The 1% rewards, although unique to Kmart, oftentimes do not account for the price gap between Kmart and other stores. For a purchase of $5 or under, the use of a re-useable shopping bag at Target (and some Walmarts) results in a larger discount. Also, reward cards can increase the desire to make unnecessary purchases, as shoppers feel they are simply increasing their reward points, rather than spending money.

Despite these pitfalls, the Shop Your Way program can be useful for many shoppers. Those who use the pharmacy on a regular basis, which is competitively priced, can quickly earn rewards points. Use of Kmart's layaway program can also be a way to earn many points while taking advantage of another program not offered at Walmart or Target stores.

Verdict: Mixed. If you are a shopper who regularly uses Kmart, then a Shop Your Way card is a good idea. However, on its own, the Shop Your Way program does not provide enough incentive for shoppers to abandon other stores and shop at Kmart full time.

Organic Food-Super Target or Walmart Supercenter?

America's two largest retailers, Walmart and Target, both operate large, "hypermarket" versions of their traditional stores, both of which carry a full line of groceries. While both carry a large selection of standards groceries, both companies have also begun to focus on fresh, healthy foods for the health minded consumer. So how do the two match up?

Walmart: According to a recent analysis by Scarborough Research, Walmart Supercenters sell more organic produce than any other store in the United States. Due to its large size, Walmart is able to offer the lowest prices around on most organic foods, including milk, grains, and the majority of produce, including apples, bananas, peppers, and carrots. However, there has also been criticism of Walmart's organic foods. Since Walmart constantly strives to provide the lowest-priced products around, some organic food consumers have accused Walmart of cutting corners with their products, and labeling foods as organic, even when they may contain pesticides or other non-organic chemicals.

Target: Target stores, including both Super Target and a growing number of regular Target stores to include fresh grocery, display their organic products prominently. While Walmart's website makes little mention of their organic line, Target's website provides consumers with recipes, nutrition information, and information on where their organic products have been grown. Target's organic food is generally slightly more expensive than Walmart's, however the difference is very rarely any more than 5%.

Verdict: Super Target. Although Walmart offers the cheapest organic food, doubts about whether or not it may be poorly prepared or misrepresented reflect negatively on Walmart's line of organic foods. Target's intangibles, including recipe ideas, buying guides, and easy-to-find nutrition information, make paying slightly more for their organic food worth it.