2012 Black Friday sales will have Wal-Mart throwing open their doors earlier than ever before.
Opening at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year, the world’s largest retailer says they hope to relieve shoppers’ anxiety while also guaranteeing three of their most popular items for a special one hour.
If lined up inside the store between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, those three items guaranteed are: an Apple iPad 2 with Wi-Fi for $399 plus a $74 Wal-Mart gift card; an Emerson 32-inch LCD TV for $148, down from the original $228; and an LG Blu-ray Disc player for $38, about half off the original price.
If those inside during that one-hour window find the product sold out, Wal-Mart will offer a guarantee card for the item.
The item must be paid for by midnight and registered online. The product will then be shipped to the store where it was purchased for the customer to pick up before December 25.
“We know it’s frustrating for customers to shop on Black Friday and not get the items they want,” said Duncan MacNaughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer at Wal-Mart’s U.S. division.
To satisfy customers’ demands for coveted items, Wal-Mart “bought very deep” on products that matter to its customers, he said.
Duncan MacNaughton declined to offer details but he told reporters on Wednesday the discounter is offering sharper discounts and broader, deeper assortments for the kickoff and the rest of the season compared to years past. For example, Wal-Mart doubled the number of tablet computers it’s bringing in for the winter holidays.
The stepped-up strategy comes as Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, is counting on keeping its momentum going at its U.S. business, which started roaring back late last year after struggling during a more than two-year slump.
It’s critical for the holiday shopping season, which accounts for as much as 40% of a retailer’s annual sales.
Wal-Mart’s strategy raises the competitive stakes for the start of the holiday season.
American retailers have increasingly expanded their hours on Black Friday to get ahead of the competition, but now the kickoff is creeping earlier into Thanksgiving Day.
Starting with the 8:00 p.m. sale on Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart will have two more rounds of sales that will also include a consumer electronics sale two hours later and a sale at 5:00 a.m. on Friday.
Last year, Target, Best Buy, Macy’s and Kohl’s were closed on Thanksgiving and kicked off Black Friday sales at the stroke of midnight, their earliest starts ever. Best Buy Co Inc, Macy’s and Kohl’s all plan to open at midnight again, while Target has not given its plans yet.
Sears Holdings Corp’s (SHLD.O) Sears and Kmart stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, Sears kept its discount chain Kmart open on Thanksgiving but the Sears chain was closed.
This year, Sears stores will open at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and stay open overnight until 10:00 p.m. on Black Friday. Kmart has been open on Thanksgiving for the last 21 years.
In 2011, Wal-Mart began with deals on toys, home items and clothing at 10:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving, followed by electronics deals at midnight and other offers at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, November 25.
Most Wal-Mart stores will be open on Thanksgiving, unless they are required to close by local or state law.
Wal-Mart has faced protests in various U.S. cities lately and some workers have planned to walk off the job on Black Friday. Such actions are being sponsored by groups including a contingent of workers called OUR Wal-Mart that receives union support.