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Walmart offering earlier Black Friday deals too

Holiday shopping continues to encroach on Thanksgiving with Walmart the latest retailer to reveal plans that its promotional activity will begin at 6 p.m. with an expanded range of featured items, price guarantees, deeper inventory levels and detailed crowd control procedures.

Most Walmart stores are already open on Thanksgiving Day, but consistent with the trend among other retailers, the company moved up the timing of its promotional activities by several hours. Last year, Walmart began promotional activities at 8 p.m. The company also continues to employ a phased approach to it promotional activity in an effort to spread out shopper traffic and is also enticing employees to work on Thanksgiving Day with a 25% discount.

No one does Black Friday better than Walmart, according to Bill Simon, president and CEO of the retailer’s U.S. division.

"We're excited to give our customers an incredible Black Friday with shopping hours that will allow them to take advantage of great prices on Thanksgiving night and all weekend long,” Simon said.

The first wave of deals begins at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and is followed by a second wave of deals at 8 p.m. The spacing is designed to keep shoppers at Walmart and is complemented by an enhanced price guarantee first introduced last year that guarantees customers receive the featured items during a one hour period.

Twenty-one items are part of the price guarantee offer this year, compared to only three last year. The stipulation is that shoppers wait in line prior to the 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. price events to secure a wristband which shows they are eligible to purchase the featured item. Shoppers can continue to wait in line or shop, but must return within two hours after the featured items go on sale to pick up merchandise. Walmart said it has increased inventory levels on featured items, but also noted that quantities of the wristbands are limited which signify a shopper is eligible to purchase featured product.

"Some other retailers advertise great deals, but may only have a handful of products available, forcing customers to wait outside the store only to leave disappointed. Not at Walmart,” Simon said. “Most of our stores are open 24 hours so customers can come inside. And we've improved this year's shopping experience so customers can spend less time in line and get what they need without going anywhere else."

Other components of Walmart’s Black Friday strategy involve deeper integration with social media and Walmart.com. For example, Walmart said it will offer what it calls “managers’ specials” from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Black Friday because it has empowered managers to lower prices on key items. However, for details on the categories and products featured customers must “like” their local Walmart’s Facebook page.

Walmart is also looking to appeal to those fond of couch commerce by offering sharp pricing on key items beginning early Thanksgiving Day and throughout Black Friday. The company has also added functionality and content to its site so that visitors can plan their shopping trip at Walmart.com/BlackFriday with maps that show the location of various deals. Visitors will also find tips on gift-giving and videos on Walmart.com and YouTube which provide research on hot products.