Walmart to offer most Black Friday promotions online first

This December 31, 2014 file photo shows A Walmart store in Landover, Md.
This December 31, 2014 file photo shows A Walmart store in Landover, Md. AFP/Getty Images

Walmart plans to offer most of its Black Friday discounts to online shoppers hours before they become available in stores, as the company attempts to hold off challenges by Amazon and other e-commerce rivals.

The world’s biggest retailer, which said it still expects to draw record crowds even with the online push, will make the deals available on its website at 3:01 a.m. Eastern time on Thanksgiving morning. The discounts will be available in stores starting at 6 p.m. that day, the company said in a statement.

In anticipation of the Black Friday rush, Walmart has bought a larger number of the discounted items, including 1 million televisions, 15 million movies and 10 million pajama sets.

Walmart will also offer all the deals at once instead of spreading them out for limited times at different parts of the shopping day.

The day after Thanksgiving marks the traditional start of the two-month U.S. holiday retail season, which accounts for almost 20 percent of the industry’s annual sales.

“All the customer indications we have is it is going to be a great day,” Steve Bratspies, Walmart’s chief merchandising officer, said Wednesday at a store in Secaucus, New Jersey. “From our customers and the feedback we have gotten, the majority like it and we judge that basically by the traffic. Last year, boy did people show up, and they showed up in force. We expect them to do the same” this year, he said.

While some retailers have been downplaying Black Friday – outdoor-gear seller REI is closing that day – the event remains one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Sales that weekend account for about 10 percent to 15 percent of total holiday sales, which are expected to reach $630 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

“We have referred to it as the Super Bowl of retail,” said Bratspies. “People work for this all year. If you come out to our stores, there is an energy that can’t be replicated.” The Associated Press contributed.