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Black Friday Sales Gear Up as Walmart Announces Thanksgiving Night Open

Lisa Scherzer
Personal Finance Editor
The Exchange

The election is over. What are you waiting for? Time to get going on your holiday shopping list. With Thanksgiving a mere two weeks away, Black Friday ads are trickling out, with Walmart (WMT) being the latest to show its hand.

And the world's biggest retailer wants you to start spending on Turkey Day. Walmart today announced that its Black Friday sale will start at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 22, its earliest open ever.

Walmart is also taking the bold step of guaranteeing the availability of certain products for customers who are in stores and in line between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Nov. 22. The guaranteed items are: 16GB Apple iPad 2 with wi-fi for $399 (plus you get a $75 Walmart gift card); an Emerson 32-inch LCD TV for $148; and an LG Blu-ray player for $38. If any of the items sell out, shoppers can purchase a Guarantee Card which will ensure that they'll get the item before Christmas at the advertised Black Friday price. Walmart will have three rounds of sales, one starting at 8 p.m., one at 10 p.m. with a focus on electronics deals, and the last at 5 a.m. on Nov. 23, which includes Goodyear tires and a diamond ring.

Here's a look at all of Walmart's Black Friday sale items.

Deal sites like BFAds.net, FatWallet.com and BlackFriday.com have published leaked sale fliers, giving consumers a peek into what Kmart, Best Buy, Sam's Club, Macy's and Staples have on tap for the shopping extravaganza that is Nov. 23 this year.

Macy's announced this week that it's planning to open at midnight on Black Friday and also gave shoppers a sneak peak of the coming deals on its Facebook page.

But several sites, including BFAds.net, published the retailer's leaked 52-page Thanksgiving Day circular on Oct. 24, and never heard anything from the retailer, says  Michael Brim, president of BFAds.net. (In a USA Today article a Macy's spokesman said the circular's release was not "authorized.")

It's unclear whether the retailers themselves are leaking their own ads, but in many cases they don't object once the information is out. "Retailers are seeing the added benefit of getting ads out early," Brim says. "When we leak an ad we think retailers are ambivalent. Once they know it's out, they don't mind." On Oct. 28 BFAds.net published a leaked ad from Ace Hardware (perhaps not the first place you think of for Christmas gift shopping). Ace responded with a cease-and-desist letter three days later but sent a "finalized" ad to the site to post two days later (it was no different from the leaked version).

Clearly, publicity about a retailer's upcoming sales can be viewed as part of their marketing strategy. According to Google Trends, starting Nov. 1 there was a marked spike in "Black Friday" searches, around the same time the leaked ads began appearing.

For curious shoppers, here are a few "doorbuster" deals to keep an eye on, including a laughably low price for the Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone at Sam's Club.

-    Best Buy's sale includes a Toshiba 40-inch LCD TV for $180. (Best Buy lists it for $420 now.)

-    Sam's Club's sale includes a 65-inch VIZIO Razor LED Smart HDTV for $998. (It currently sells for $1,698 at Sam's Club.)

-    Sears will have a Kenmore Elite high-efficiency washer for $650. It's now selling for $1,198.

-    Best Buy will be selling Samsung Galaxy SIII for $48, with a two-year contract.

-    That price is an outrage compared with Sam's Club seemingly impossible Black Friday price of 96 cents for the Galaxy (note: it's for members only) with a two-year contract.