- Walmart unveiled its plans for a reinvented Black Friday amid a pandemic after signaling earlier this year it would be making changes to the shopping holiday.
- The retail giant said it would spread discounts over three discreet events, in what Walmart calls "Black Friday Deals for Days." Each starts online and continues in stores.
- The first starts online Nov. 4 and in stores Nov. 7; the second starts online Nov. 11 and in stores Nov. 14; and the final starts online Nov. 25 and in stores Nov. 27 (the traditional Black Friday). Customers can also buy online and use contactless curbside pickup for their sales event purchases, an offering the retailer said is new this year.
Throughout the pandemic, Walmart has been one of the leaders others have looked to as they try to manage physical stores through a deadly and extremely contagious pandemic.
During the shutdown, Walmart was among the retailers deemed essential and allowed to stay open. But it wasn't a simple matter of keeping the doors open. Walmart instituted mask policies, one-way aisles, occupancy limits, sanitizing procedures and other protocols meant to both make customers feel safer and protect against the new coronavirus. Even with those protocols, Walmart has faced lawsuits and pushback from some employees who felt unsafe.
When the world reopened, many retailers instituted the procedures developed by Walmart and its peers. Now the retailer is among the first to tackle Black Friday — a shopping event historically defined by long lines and packed stores.
The retailer plans to open its stores at 5 a.m. on Nov. 27. (Walmart announced in July that it would close for Thanksgiving for the first time in roughly three decades.) For Black Friday, Walmart said it would keep shoppers in a single, straight line outside its stores and meter traffic into the store.
The structure of the events also appears to be aimed at keeping shoppers from packing into Walmart stores on Black Friday itself. It kicks off in early November with discounts on toys and electronics and popular items like Magic Bullet Blenders. The mid-November event adds deals on traditional Black Friday big-ticket items like TVs, computers and tablets, and the latter date also includes a wireless sale with deals on iPhones and Samsung phones in stores and online. Black Friday, then, expands the discounts.
The online start to the events and offer of curbside may do just as much to keep customers from crowding stores. Walmart joined Amazon in trying to incentivize consumers to start holiday shopping now, with an online sales event paralleling Amazon's Prime Day this week.
Walmart has been preparing for an e-commerce surge this season, announcing this fall that it planned to add 20,000 seasonal workers to its fulfillment operations.
Fellow mass merchant Target is also adding resources to its same-day services ahead of the holidays and has signaled that it plans to pull holiday discounting earlier into the year. It, too, has launched its own online sales event this week to rival Prime Day.