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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Walmart Pre-views some Black Friday Sales early

Wal-Mart Stores Inc previewed some of the deep discounts it plans to offer right after Thanksgiving next week, part of a promotional strategy that has kept cash-strapped customers scouring its stores for bargains.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season, is a time for retailers to tout their deals and try to capture shoppers' attention. The three-day holiday weekend can account for roughly 10 percent of total holiday sales. Wal-Mart plans to advertise its Black Friday promotions on its website on Monday.

They include a limited number of Nintendo's popular Wii video console for $249.24 on Friday and Saturday. The gaming system currently sells for $289.99 at rival Target Corp. A KitchenAid 4.5 quarter mixer sells for $130, $100 less than advertised at Macy's.

U.S. Sales this holiday season are expected to be the worst in years, as the worsening economic climate forces many shoppers to cut out all but the most necessary of purchases. Retailers have been cutting prices to entice people to spend and to move inventory, but promotions have cut into profit margins at many chains. Wal-Mart's focus on low prices has been a winning strategy in recent months, helping it to increase sales and win market share. Earlier this month, Wal-Mart posted a 10 percent rise in quarterly profit, in stark contrast to competitors.

Also on Friday, the company announced that its chief executive, Lee Scott, would retire in February. In a memo to employees, Chairman Rob Walton wrote "our customers are relying on us more than ever in the current economic environment and we are well-positioned to serve them now and in the future."

Wal-Mart had a jump-start on the holiday season this year, advertising that it would begin promoting deep discounts on items like toys in October. The retailer also plans to have special sales on its website on Thanksgiving Day.

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