Walmart to hold Thanksgiving parties, start Black Friday deals early

Holding an early Thanksgiving dinner, or even lunch, this year? Then Walmart wants you to head to its stores to party before you shop.

The retailer said it will hold events in stores on Nov. 22, Thanksgiving Day, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with free coffee and cookies. As it did last year, Walmart will officially kick off Black Friday deals in stores at 6 p.m. that Thursday. Online, Walmart will be rolling out Black Friday deals at 10 p.m. ET on Nov. 21, earlier than it’s ever done before.

“We’re trying to allow folks on the East Coast to shop a little earlier,” Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer of Walmart U.S., said on a call with members of the media. “Whether [people] go online or in stores, we’re agnostic to that.”

Retail rivals Target, Kohl’s and Macy’s will be opening their doors on Thanksgiving at 5 p.m. this year. J.C. Penney is getting an even earlier start and opening at 2 p.m.

Walmart has already said it’s expecting its best holiday season ever and will have new technology in stores, such as maps and mobile checkout, to help shoppers have a painless experience and speed through stores.

Still, the battle for shoppers’ dollars online continues between Walmart and its biggest rival, Amazon. The e-commerce company said this week it will offer free shipping to all customers — not just Prime customers — for a limited time during the holiday season. Walmart continues to offer free, two-day shipping for orders more than $35. Target on Nov. 1 removed its threshold and now is offering free, two-day shipping on all digital purchases through Dec. 22.

Walmart hopes that deep discounts on kids’ bikes, wireless headphones, iPhones and Google Home devices will lure shoppers to stores. On its website, it will have 18 unique Black Friday deals live as early as midnight Thursday — including a Sharp 55-inch Class 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart LED TV on sale for $299 and a Farberware Oil-Less Fryer on sale for $39.

The average American household is expected to spend $1,536 through the holidays, according to a survey by Deloitte of more than 4,000 consumers during September. That represents a 25 percent increase from a year ago. Many retailers are optimistic about their 2018 performance thanks to strong consumer confidence in the U.S. and low unemployment that’s giving shoppers the ability to spend more.

Forty-four percent of people say they’ll rely on Black Friday to start shopping this holiday season, while 53 percent are holding out to shop until Cyber Monday, Deloitte found in the same survey.

“Although the rate of online sales growth is accelerating faster than that of physical stores, retailers should put resources behind both to be relevant,” said Rod Sides, head of Deloitte’s U.S. retail and distribution team. “Online convenience is a way of life for most people, but what a person buys is still influenced by what happens in the store.”

Walmart is set to report quarterly earnings before the bell next Thursday.

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