Wal-Mart to Offer Most Black Friday Promotions Online First

  • Deals start Thanksgiving morning before they begin in stores
  • World's biggest retailer still says it expects record crowds

An employee organizes movies for sale at a Wal-Mart store in Los Angeles, California.

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to offer most of its Black Friday discounts to online shoppers hours before they become available in stores, as the company attempts to hold off challenges by Amazon.com Inc. and other e-commerce rivals.  

The world’s biggest retailer, which said it still expects to draw record crowds even with the online push, will make the deals available on its website at 12:01 a.m. West Coast time Thanksgiving morning. The discounts will be available in stores starting at 6 p.m. that day, the company said in a statement.

In anticipation of the Black Friday rush, Wal-Mart has bought a larger number of the discounted items, including 1 million televisions, 15 million movies and 10 million pajama sets. The day after Thanksgiving marks the traditional start of the U.S. holiday retail season.

“All the customer indications we have is it is going to be a great day,” Steve Bratspies, Wal-Mart’s chief merchandising officer, said Wednesday at a store in Secaucus, New Jersey. “From our customers and the feedback we have gotten, the majority like it and we judge that basically by the traffic. Last year, boy did people show up, and they showed up in force. We expect them to do the same” this year, he said.

While some retailers have been downplaying Black Friday -- outdoor-gear seller Recreational Equipment Inc. is closing that day -- the event remains one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Sales that weekend account for about 10 percent to 15 percent of total holiday sales, which are expected to reach $630 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

“We have referred to it as the Super Bowl of retail,” said Bratspies. “People work for this all year. If you come out to our stores, there is an energy that can’t be replicated.”

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