Walmart says it will spread out its traditional one-day Black Friday deals over three weekends in November in an effort to reduce crowds in its stores during a pandemic.
The nation’s largest retailer said Wednesday that more of its doorbuster deals will be reserved for online, as a way to steer more shoppers away from its stores.
The discounter, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, will kick off the deals online November 4, with new deals in stores on November 7. The second event will begin online November 11, followed by a similar sales event in stores November 14. It will wrap up its discounts online November 25 with new discounts in stores November 27, the day after Thanksgiving and the traditional Black Friday.
The details offer the first glimpse from a major retailer of what a reinvented Black Friday will look like during a pandemic. Other retailers like Macy’s have also said their Black Friday deals would be spread out and tried to encourage more online shopping, but none have given specific details.
Black Friday losing luster
The day after Thanksgiving has been losing its luster as the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season for the past several years. That’s because retailers started to usher in deals on Thanksgiving and then increasingly offering holiday discounts throughout the month. Still, despite the competition from other days, Black Friday has remained the busiest day of the year, according to ShopperTrak, which uses cameras in a range of stores to count traffic.
This holiday season, many stores are starting their holiday deals in October. Amazon, which usually holds its annualsales event in mid-July, delayed it to this week. Other stores like Target and Walmart have joined in and are holding holiday sales that align with the event. Many stores, including Walmart, will not open their doors on Thanksgiving Day this year.
As shoppers avoid physical stores and focus more on online shopping, foot traffic at retail stores is expected to be down 22% to 25% during the six key weeks of the holiday season compared to the same year-ago period, according to a forecast from ShopperTrak.
Busiest days of the year
ShopperTrak expects the 10 busiest days this year will account for 34.2% of all holiday traffic, compared to 46.5% in 2019. As a result, the typical holiday traffic peaks will flatten, with more days having importance throughout the season, according to Brian Field, a senior director of the retail consulting practice at ShopperTrak, part of Sensormatic Solutions. Field said he still expects Black Friday will be the busiest day of the year.
The challenge for stores will be to get shoppers to buy earlier.
“If the deal is right, customers are willing to shop earlier,” Scott McCall, chief merchandising officer at Walmart, told The Associated Press.
McCall noted that Walmart was forced to rethink Black Friday when the pandemic was declared, adding that many of the holiday items destined for stores were rerouted to e-commerce fulfillment centers.
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