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Exclusive: Target aims for big December sales push

(REUTERS) A woman uses her smartphone as she waits in line to checkout at a Target store on the shopping day dubbed ''Black Friday'' in Torrington, Connecticut, November 25, 2011.
(REUTERS) A woman uses her smartphone as she waits in line to checkout at a Target store on the shopping day dubbed ''Black Friday'' in Torrington, Connecticut, November 25, 2011.

By Jessica Wohl

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Target Corp is rolling out new discounts on big-name toys and other gifts as it tries to increase sales during the holiday season after a somewhat disappointing showing last year.

The discounts include up to 50 percent for popular toys from major toy makers such as Mattel Inc . The sales push comes after last year's big rush, when Toys R Us gained market share from mass merchants such as Target and Wal-Mart Stores Inc .

This year, Target is fighting back with a variety of deals as it tries to move past last December's minimal rise of 0.9 percent in sales at stores open at least a year.

Executives said Target plans to have a new "Almost Last Minute" sale to reach out to the shoppers who have held off on buying. The December 8-10 sale will encompass a range of items including televisions, a camera, some video games and cookware.

Target declined to disclose any specific discounts that it planned to offer as part of that sale.

"It really makes a very strong value statement," said Will Setliff, Target's senior vice president of marketing.

While executives seemed pleased with Target's performance over the Black Friday weekend, sales figures will not be released until Thursday.

Target's same-store sales rose 5.5 percent in November 2010. The company has projected a low-to-mid single-digit percentage rise for this November.

TOYS IN FOCUS

The holiday season is critical for the toy industry. About 35 percent to 40 percent of Target's sales of toys happen in November and December, Stephanie Lucy, merchandising vice president of toys, said as she walked around one of the company's stores in Minneapolis on Wednesday.

Some of the weaker-than-anticipated sales growth last December was due to poor sales of toys. This year, Target has already felt pressure from Walmart using layaway to attract toy buyers.

Now, Target hopes sales will bring in those shoppers who have not finished, or even started, buying gifts. Target said it had heard that many shoppers were waiting to make purchases, Lucy said.

"We believe there are still a lot of sales to go," she said. Lucy is planning to buy toys such as Beyblades, a Star Wars light saber and Legos for her two boys.

She may also buy one of the most popular gifts so far, Leapfrog Enterprises Inc's LeapPad. The $99 gadget, almost an iPad for kids, has been out of stock at some stores, including the Target just steps from the company's Minneapolis headquarters. It was also the most popular toy on Walmart's layaway program as of mid-November.

Target started one special on November 30, offering 30 percent to 50 percent off one toy each day through December 24. Wednesday's offer was a Star Wars Millennium Falcon priced at $24.99 at the downtown Minneapolis store, down from the usual $38.39. The toy typically sells online for $34.99.

Another sale from December 4 through December 10 will allow shoppers to buy one item and get one for 50 percent off on a variety of toys such as Mattel's Barbie, Fisher-Price Little People, Walt Disney Co Princess and Cars 2 collections, Hasbro Inc Nerf, Thomas & Friends and LEGO City.

Target is also using social media for deals, including one that began on Wednesday. Facebook fans can print a coupon for a $10 gift card with a purchase of $50 or more to be redeemed in stores by Saturday.

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Minneapolis; editing by Andre Grenon)

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