Wal-Mart unveils plan for holiday; retailer to put early deals online

Posted: November 9, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will begin offering in-store Black Friday deals to customers on Thanksgiving night. But online shoppers will be able to access the majority of them even earlier.

Steve Bratspies, Wal-Mart's chief merchandising officer for U.S. stores, laid out a familiar plan during a conference call Wednesday as the Bentonville-based retailer prepares for the big shopping weekend.

Much like last year, Bratspies said the majority of Wal-Mart's Black Friday deals will be available at Walmart.com beginning at 11:01 p.m on Nov. 22 in Arkansas. While stores will be open all day on Thanksgiving, the Black Friday sales won't begin until 6 p.m in each time zone.

The plan is part of Wal-Mart's efforts to give customers the chance to shop "when they want and how they want" over Thanksgiving, according to Bratspies. He said Wal-Mart has 10 million toys and 25 million DVDs and Blue-ray videos ready for sale. Black Friday deals also will include televisions, video-game consoles, kitchen appliances, laptops, tablets, drones and pajamas.

"We know what customers want," Bratspies said. "They want great deals on hot items. It's really that simple. I can tell you customers are not going to be disappointed with what we have planned."

Wal-Mart's Black Friday sales were announced a week after the company unveiled its strategy for the Christmas season, which included enhanced efforts to drive traffic to its 4,700 stores. Wal-Mart said it will hold Christmas-themed parties and a larger number of product demonstrations and will have extra staff members in stores to aid customers.

The retailer also said Wednesday that it will have color-coded maps outlining key departments such as electronics, toys, home and apparel to help customers navigate the store to find deals. Maps will be available on a Wal-Mart mobile app Tuesday and in stores on Black Friday.

Wal-Mart will not hand out wristbands to customers guaranteeing certain items are available on Black Friday. Bratspies said the company doesn't believe those will be necessary this year.

"We feel really good about the depth of inventory that we have and the ability to serve our customers," Bratspies said. "So we're not going to be running that program this year. We don't think we're going to need to."

Wal-Mart joined a lengthy list of retailers to reveal their store hours and deals for Thanksgiving. While retailers like Sam's Club, Dillard's and Costco will remain closed, several stores will continue the recent trend to welcome shoppers on Thanksgiving.

J.C. Penney said it will keep stores open for 32 consecutive hours. The company will open the doors at 2 p.m on Thanksgiving Day and would remain open until Friday at 10 p.m.

Target will open at 6 p.m on Thanksgiving and close at midnight. It will reopen stores at 6 a.m on Friday.

"Our hours for this year ensure we're ready with great deals for those guests who want to shop following their Thanksgiving dinner, while also giving our teams a chance to recharge and prepare our stores before we open on Friday to greet guests with even more holiday savings," Janna Potts, Target's executive vice president and chief stores officer, said in a statement.

Retailers began opening their doors and offering online deals on Thanksgiving a few years ago in hopes of getting a jump on Christmas shopping traffic. This year, 33 percent of customers are likely to shop on that day according, to an October survey conducted by research firm Statista.

The NPD Group also conducted a survey that shows nearly 30 percent of consumers plan to start their Christmas shopping over Thanksgiving weekend. But Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, added the excitement of Thanksgiving Day store openings has faded and they've become a "low risk, low reward proposition" for retailers.

"While choosing to close on the holiday will not be detrimental to those retailers, the retailers who open won't see a significant boost this year either," Cohen said in a statement. "The boost we will see during the peak Thanksgiving week shopping period of the 2017 holiday season will come from online sales -- online sales will continue to grow."

Bratspies said Wal-Mart anticipates a big in-store turnout, but is prepared to cater to customers who would prefer staying at home to shop after tripling its online assortment since last year's Christmas season.

In addition to offering in-store Black Friday sales beginning early on Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart also said it will have other online-only deals available for customers that day. The retailer also is offering Walmart.com customers additional deals beginning today on items such as laptops, drones, tablets and video-game consoles. Those early deals will last through Sunday.

"Our deals are going to be available in stores and online," Bratspies said. "They can shop for whatever they want because we'll have something for everyone."

Business on 11/09/2017