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Walmart offers online edge to sale

by Serenah McKay | November 16, 2021 at 1:59 a.m.

Walmart Inc. will give online shoppers a head start on Black Friday deals this year, starting at 6 p.m. Nov. 22. The in-store event starts at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving.

Members of the subscription service Walmart Plus, though, will get to shop the deals on Walmart.com starting at 2 p.m. Nov. 22.

The Black Friday sale is the third in a series of Christmas shopping events the Bentonville-based retailer has held this month. However, Walmart has offered discounts on toys, electronics and other popular gift items throughout the month, both in stores and online.

The company will again close its stores on Thanksgiving Day, as it did for the first time last year.

Walmart's November start of its Christmas sales discounts lagged a bit behind some of its competitors, as well as its own Sam's Club members-only warehouse division, which began their seasonal promotions a month earlier.

Sam's Club started its Christmas "shopping events" in late October because a survey showed members planned to shop earlier than usual this year, a Sam's Club spokeswoman said. These events, spread over five weekends, will continue through early December.

Other retailers that started their Christmas discounts in October include Target Corp., which began its seasonal sales events on Oct. 10. Target stores will also close for Thanksgiving, the company said, and most will open at 7 a.m. on Black Friday.

But e-commerce behemoth Amazon.com led the pack with the earliest start of Christmas promotions. Amazon started its "Black Friday-worthy" deals on Oct. 4 -- "earlier than ever," it said. Amazon said it is offering steep discounts on merchandise across all categories, with new deals added daily.

Amazon said last week that its actual Black Friday sale will start at 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

Analysts have urged customers to start their Christmas shopping earlier than usual this year in case problems along the supply chain cause stores to quickly run through their inventory of sought-after items.

Carol Spieckerman, a retail analyst and president of Spieckerman Retail, said that retail is still benefiting from pent-up demand, causing shoppers to be more impulsive and even less resistant to rising prices.

As a result, finding items in stock may be more important to this year's shoppers than price cuts, Spieckerman said.

Walmart has repeatedly said, though, that it will have plenty of inventory on hand for the entire Christmas shopping season.

The company has gone to great lengths this year to navigate snags in its supply chain, and made headlines for chartering ships to import merchandise from China.

Walmart executives, speaking to investors in August, outlined some of the other measures it was taking to shore up inventory and reduce out-of-stocks for the second half of the year, such as factoring in extra lead time when ordering merchandise.

John Furner, chief executive officer of Walmart U.S., said in the second-quarter conference call that the company had secured resources for transporting goods in the third and fourth quarters, he said.

Also in August, Kathryn McLay, chief executive officer of Sam's Club, said in a video interview with Yahoo Finance that she was confident Sam's Club would have inventory on hand for consumers, especially going into the Christmas shopping season.

"We have been working through supply chain challenges it feels like for the past 18 months, and it has certainly gotten better," McLay said. "We've had to work to pull forward inventory and to make sure that we are prioritizing that the right freight gets here on time."

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