* Walmart U.S. starting specials at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving
* Deals starting two hours earlier than in 2011
* Those in line guaranteed access to iPad 2, TV, Blu-ray
By Jessica Wohl
Nov 8 Walmart will kick off its holiday sales
rush at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, its earliest start ever, and
will guarantee that those who line up can buy a trio of gadgets
as it places a big bet that shoppers are ready to spend this
The holiday season is critical for Wal-Mart Stores Inc
, the world's largest retailer, and its Walmart U.S.
division. More than a quarter of its annual sales come during
the holiday season.
"We bought deep, very deep, and we bought deep on items that
matter to our customers," said Walmart U.S. Chief Merchandising
and Marketing Officer Duncan Mac Naughton.
Retailers are coming up with fresh ways to entice shoppers
this year, as holiday spending is only expected to rise 4.1
percent, according to the National Retail Federation, down from
5.6 percent growth in 2011.
Walmart kicked off layaway a month earlier than last year,
in mid-September. Layaway allows shoppers to keep a product on
hold at the store and pay for it over time. Chains such as
Walmart and Target have already published toy catalogs.
While the holiday shopping season traditionally kicks off
on the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, the push
to sell Christmas presents and other items has been moving
earlier and earlier in recent years.
Retailers say that shoppers want earlier deals.
"'We got customer feedback that says 'I like to shop earlier
so I can go to bed earlier,'" Mac Naughton said.
Thanksgiving will be observed on Nov. 22 this year.
At 8 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving, Walmart's offers will
include deals on video games starting at $10 and home appliances
such as a Crock Pot slow cooker and a Mr. Coffee maker for $9.44
Walmart also said it would guarantee that three items will
be available that night to people standing in line in its stores
between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving, though the items
are not among the hottest new gadgets of the year.
Those shoppers are guaranteed access to an Apple
iPad 2 16GB with Wi-Fi, a March 2011 version, priced at $399
with a $75 Walmart Gift Card; a 32-inch Emerson 720p LCD TV at
$148, $80 below the usual price; and an LG Blu-ray player for
$38 that Walmart does not typically sell but said goes for $68
to $79 elsewhere.
After a round of specials focused on electronics at 10 p.m.
Walmart will take a break from special deals, giving shoppers a
chance to get some rest or perhaps visit other stores.
Walmart now keeps its stores open overnight between
Thanksgiving and Black Friday after an employee was trampled to
death when a Long Island store opened on Black Friday in 2008.
Last year, key competitors including Target Corp
began their special offers at 12 a.m. on Friday.
Other items to be offered during the night include brands
such as Vizio, Samsung, Nikon, Nook and Beats by Dr. Dre.
"I think we have the brands that our customers want," Mac
A variety of items from Goodyear tires to a Singer Sewing
Machine go on sale at 5 a.m. on Black 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 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 p.m. on Thanksgiving
Day and stay open overnight until 10 p.m. on Black Friday. Kmart
has been open on Thanksgiving for the last 21 years.
In 2011, Walmart began with deals on toys, home items and
clothing at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving, followed by electronics
deals at midnight and other offers at 8 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 25.
Most Walmart stores will be open on Thanksgiving, unless
they are required to close by local or state law.
Walmart 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 Walmart that receives union