So far this year, retailers are worried they will be left with a lump of coal instead of gold coins in their stocking come year end and have moved up their holiday schedule in an attempt to turn around disappointing sales figures.

In a press release, Toys R Us signaled that it would extend the guarantee to match prices from online retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com and BestBuy.com, as well as others. The move was designed to be perceived as, “Removing any doubt before holiday shopping begins in earnest that customers are receiving the best available prices.”

“All year long, but especially during the holidays, our customers need a low price leader,” remarked Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer for Walmart. “This year, we are committed to doing everything we did last year to help Americans save money—plus more. More savings, more layaway items and our commitment that they can give their families a great Christmas on a budget.”

Prosperity in the fourth quarter is frequently the key to healthy financial status at the end of the year, and in a difficult economy the competition for customer can get vicious, said Dave Cheatham, managing principal for Velocity Retail Group. “Retailers are determined not to be left on the sidelines,” he stated. “They’re reinventing the rules on how to do holiday shopping.”

Indeed there is some logic for the Christmas-in-August thinking. “We do know that 40 percent of holiday shoppers say they begin shopping before Halloween,” observed Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. The prevailing wisdom is that if it can move even a few customers, it can be a substantial plus in a tight market.

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