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Walmart Inc. will start its Black Friday sales event at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving for customers seeking bargains as they check off their Christmas shopping lists. The retailer will also provide earlier access to Black Friday deals online and debut some new tools intended to make in-store shopping easier.

Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer of Walmart U.S., said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday that this year's Black Friday event is as much about convenience as it is great prices.

For example, he said this will be the first year the company will have a special Black Friday version of the store map feature on its app. This will help people plan their shopping trip in advance and save time while they shop during what he called "the Super Bowl of retailing."

From 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Nov. 22, the store map will transition to an "enhanced" version that will let shoppers select an item from Walmart's Black Friday ad circular and see its location on the store map. Also, key departments such as toys, electronics, home and apparel will be color-coded on both the digital store maps and printed maps distributed in stores.

The color coding will be carried out in stores with balloons and signs, and in vests worn by store workers staffing the different departments. Also, under the new Check Out With Me program, employees identifiable by a bright yellow sash will be in high-traffic areas of the store to scan shoppers' items and process their payments by credit card, allowing them to avoid long lines at the register.

Bratspies said Walmart will lower prices on hundreds of items in stores and online. Customers can use Walmart's app or website to view its event circular, which shows bargains on products ranging from giant TVs to toys, bikes, cookware and bedroom slippers.

Nearly all the items available in stores will also be on the website, Bratspies said. "We just want customers to choose Walmart," he said, "and we're agnostic about which channel they choose."

They'll need to shop early, though, as few sale items will still be available by noon on Nov. 23, he said. "Usually our product goes very quickly, within an hour or two, and we don't expect it to be any different this year," Bratspies said.

For online shoppers, Walmart will place Christmas markdowns on 18 items on its website starting at 11:01 p.m. tonight. The rest of the Black Friday deals will be available online beginning at 9 p.m. Nov. 21 -- two hours earlier than in past years.

Business on 11/08/2018

Print Headline: Walmart's Black Friday sales to begin at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving; focus is on convenience

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