Walmart Ups the Ante on Black Friday Yet Again

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By Krystina Gustafson

Not to be outdone by other large retailers, Walmart Stores announced Tuesday that it will kick off its Black Friday deals one week early.

The retailer said it will mark down prices on a number of toys and electronics starting Nov. 22, in stores and online.

"Black Friday is our Super Bowl, and we plan to win," said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer for Walmart U.S.

The news follows Sears and Kmart's (SHLD) announcement last week that they would offer Black Friday deals to "Shop Your Way" rewards customers one week early. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Walmart (WMT) had said just a week ago that it would kick off its Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

The list of retailers pushing Black Friday sales earlier may not be over, and it appears consumers are responding. According to a study by the National Retail Federation last week, 53.8 percent had already started their holiday shopping.

Paired with a shorter holiday calendar this year, with six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, retailers are doing anything they can to remain competitive.

In its release, Walmart also said it will extend its ad match to website sales.


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Walmart Ups the Ante on Black Friday Yet Again
We've said it many times already, and we'll say it once more: Black Friday is not the best time to buy toys for the holidays. Many will likely see discounts on Black Friday, and it may feel pretty good to get your shopping done early, but you won't love the sinking feeling you'll get when you see the same toys for even less about two weeks before Christmas.

Speaking of toys, if you're looking to buy a video game console this holiday, you'll get more bang for your buck by opting for a console deal that includes a few extras. In years past, the vast majority of Editors' Choice console deals consisted of holiday bundles that included premium accessories and two or three game titles. These were frequently discounted 30 percent to 40 percent off their retail prices.

A note about next-gen consoles: Unfortunately, we don't expect to see any discounts on the new Xbox One or PlayStation 4 this holiday, bundled or not. However, because these consoles are in high demand and will sell out quickly, we consider just finding one at list price -- even if it doesn't come bundled with a game or controller -- to be a "deal."

Black Friday is an excellent time to buy a new TV, as we predict a variety of size categories will hit their lowest price points. But don't expect the best deals to be tagged with name brands. Typically, the rock-bottom prices apply to third-tier manufacturers; brand-name TVs tend to see their best price of the year in late December as manufacturers look to clear stock before revealing 2014 models.
There's no shortage of digital camera deals around Black Friday, but premium current-generation cameras are just a few months away from being replaced by a new line of 2014 models. If you're eyeing a brand new digital SLR, we recommend waiting until after CES and into February for 2013 cameras to become "old," and thus receive aggressive discounts from retailers.
On Black Friday, we'll likely see some of the best apparel coupons of the year from a variety of retailers. However, if a new coat or jacket is on your list, it's smarter to hold off until January when winter apparel is added to clearance sales that will receive much deeper base discounts. We will inevitably find additional stacking coupons then too, which make end-of-season sales even better for your wallet.
While not typically on anyone's "To Buy on Black Friday" list, Christmas decor tends to end up in-cart on impulse buys. Sure, that string of lights or holiday wreath might be on sale, but deals on Christmas items get better the closer we get to the holiday itself -- and of course the best deals appear after the holiday. Last year, we listed the Musical Charlie Brown Christmas Tree in early November for $19 shipped. On Black Friday it fell to $15 shipped. By Christmas Eve it was available for $9 at Kmart.
For those of you looking to get a leg up on any fitness New Year's resolutions, you should resolve to wait to buy any fitness equipment. During Black Friday weekend 2012, we listed just two Editors' Choice fitness deals, while December and January each saw more than five times that amount on a variety of gear including heart rate monitors, ab machines, ellipticals, and yoga equipment.
We're flagging this category "Do Not Buy" for the entire holiday season. Much like Christmas items, there will be lots of sales advertising shiny, metallic objects perfect for him and her. But the discounts on jewelry around the winter holidays are no better than those around Valentine's Day, when baubles are at their most in-demand. Last year, we posted just four Editors' Choice watch deals and three Editors' Choice jewelry deals from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
The stylish second-generation iPad mini with Retina will set you back the same amount as an iPad 2 ($399), and if the iPad mini Retina follows the price pattern as its predecessor, it won't see a 10% discount until several months from now. While there's an off-chance that an attention-seeking retailer could offer an iPad mini Retina Black Friday deal, the original, first-generation iPad mini is a better buy this holiday season: the Apple Store has already discounted its retail price to $299, and it could drop to as low as $269 in the coming months.
For the past two years, no new Kindle Fire HD tablet has seen any significant discounts on Black Friday, likely because the tablets are already so cheap. The device has fallen in price, since the addition of the Kindle HDX to the lineup meant that Amazon dropped the price of the Kindle Fire HD to $139. But this dirt-cheap alternative to the higher price points just means that Amazon doesn't need to discount its tablets, which it already sells "at cost." And this week's limited time only 15 percent off coupon doesn't change that; it's the first coupon we've ever seen for new Kindles, and a one-time offer in celebration of the FAA's decision to lift the ban on electronics use during takeoff and landing.
While we don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate a seasonal throw blanket, we don't recommend giving them as gifts this year unless you've got a stock of them in the closet from last season. Not only does holiday decor get cheaper after the holiday in question, but bedding and blankets fall to their lowest prices of the year come January and February during "White Sales," which have been a colorful tradition since the 1950s.
Perhaps better received than throw blankets, gift baskets and wine subscriptions are especially popular during the holidays. But as the giver, you'll get a better deal on specialty foods (i.e. Omaha Steak gift bundles, fruit baskets, and assorted baked goods) if you wait until December; last year we saw twice as many Editors' Choice deals close to Christmas than around Thanksgiving.

If you have your sights set on a trip to California or Florida, by all means purchase airfare around Black Friday and even closer to Christmas; last year we saw up to 50 percent off coupons from Frontier, JetBlue, and Virgin America. However, if it's an international getaway you're after, we advise you to hold off on booking your flight until the new year. Last year, we saw zero Editors' Choice airfare deals between Thanksgiving and New Year's. But in the first two months of the year, Air Canada offered the lowest base rate we'd seen for flights to Toronto; JetBlue took 80 percent off select flights to the Caribbean; and Lufthansa offered roundtrip fares to Europe for $471.

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