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Target's Holiday season: Free shipping, international delivery, lots of Star Wars

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Target has lifted the curtain on its plans for the 2015 Holiday season, with the return of free shipping for online purchases among the headlines.

Starting Monday, Target won't charge a shipping fee for any purchases made from – no matter how much you spend (unless the item's oversized), but in a change this Christmas, free shipping will continue up to Dec. 25.

It's among the numerous promotions the Minneapolis-based retailer announced Thursday as it seeks to steal a march on rivals such as Wal-Mart, which Fortune reports is keeping its $50 minimum for free shipping.

Others include:

  • For the first time, Target will ship to more than 200 countries and territories in partnership with Borderfree, with customers able to pay in almost 60 currencies.
  • The 2-hour grocery delivery service "Instacart," piloted in Minneapolis, will be rolled out to San Francisco.
  • It's Price Match Policy – in which it matches the price of a "qualifying" item if you find it elsewhere cheaper than at – will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, a big extension on its current 14-day window.
  • Curbside pickup expanded from 21 stores to 121 nationwide.
  • Its "Cartwheel" mobile coupons will have more than 1,000 new deals, of which 350 will be at 25 percent or more. It will also offer 50 percent off a different toy every day from Monday until Dec. 24.

CEO Brian Cornell said, "I’m confident that guests will find an easy, inspiring, and most importantly, seamless experience at Target no matter how they choose to shop."

Speaking with the Star Tribune, Cornell said that the retailer's strategy for Christmas "hasn't changed dramatically" from last year, with promotions such as free shipping and Cartwheel discounts returning.

It's more a case of "expanding and refining our playbook" as it builds upon strategies that proved successful last year.

A big change is the introduction of international shipping, with president Jason Goldberger saying its website "already gets tens of millions of visitors every year from outside the U.S."

It's hoped this will translate into orders from round-the-world, as well as domestic shoppers sending gifts overseas.

Star Wars, drones, Apple among toy choices

Ahead of the hotly-anticipated release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in December, Target sees the franchise as key to its success in the toy department, and will continue with the merchandise push it jumped upon in September on "Force Friday."

It says it will be selling more than 450 Star Wars products – including the remote-control or app-driven BB-8 Droid that is expected to be one of the biggest-selling toys this Christmas.

Also on the shelves will be an "expanded assortment of drones," and a "full range" of Apple watches.

On the fashion side, Minnesota's-own Faribault Woolen Mills will feature prominently – with throws, blankets, pillows and scarves making an appearance in its "giftables" sections – while Target has promised "stylish apparel and accessories for the entire family."

Holding Target's wider Christmas marketing strategy together will be a season-long tale it's calling "The Holiday Odyssey" – which is a "digital storybook" narrated by Neil Patrick Harris that will be available to view from Nov. 4 on its website.

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