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Christmas in October? Walmart to kick off holiday shopping before Halloween

Walmart (WMT), the world’s largest retailer, will kick off its holiday shopping season before Halloween — its earliest ever — in order to make up for a condensed season.

With Thanksgiving falling on Nov. 28 this year, retailers will have six fewer shopping days from the time families gather for turkey and stuffing — and when they open presents on Christmas Day.

With that in mind, Walmart plans to launch its Early Deals Drop online at midnight Eastern on Friday, October 25, which includes discounts on items like a VIZIO 55-inch “smart” TV for $398, or a discount of $100 or $25 off the BouncePro 7-Foot My First Trampoline, for a new price of $99.

Steve Bratspies, Walmart's chief merchandising officer for the U.S., predicted that "there will be an intensity inside the stores because it is just compressed there are a lot of customers who use Black Friday is actually a kickoff to their gift-buying season."

It's part of the recognition of the need to start earlier with due to the "anticipated intensity" that comes with a shortened holiday season.

"We've been through this before — this calendar — so we kind of know how it impacts us. And while every year is unique, it's not the first time we've dealt with this,” Bratspies told reporters on Wednesday.

That said, don't expect the stores to be decked out with Santa Claus and holiday flare just yet.

"The stores will convert after Halloween the way we normally do," Bratspies said, cautioning that Christmas shopping in October won’t last long. "Right after Halloween, we'll flip the store and make it feel like holiday. The 25th is all about online."

Toys and tech

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR WALMART - Walmart customers shop deals on toys in America's Best Toy Shop during Walmart's Black Friday store event on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018 in Bentonville, Ark. (Gunnar Rathbun/AP Images for Walmart)

However, it's already "starting to feel like holiday a little bit with pricing" in the toy section. Walmart has added around 600 price rollbacks for its toy department, an area that's expanded aggressively in the aftermath of Toys 'R' Us exiting the scene last year.

Aside from toys, Walmart is also doubling down on consumer technology.

"I think we are well-positioned on technology," Bratspies said, adding, "The pricing is incredible on some of these TVs that we talked about. So, we're going to continue to lean into those categories as they're the biggest and where customers spend the most time."

In an effort to lure more customers both in-store and online, Walmart is deploying and expanding tech-enabled shopping.

Among the nine different tech options this season will be the online Gift Finder. That option allows customers to provide basic information about the recipient, and the site will generate some personalized gift recommendations.

And beginning in November, shoppers can also use their smartphones to scan and shop items in the toy catalog. Meanwhile, customers in all of the Supercenters can use the year-old Check Out With Me service, which allows customers to bypass the long checkout lines in some of the heaviest trafficked areas of the store, like the garden center or electronics department.

What's more, with the shipping wars heating up, Walmart is also touting its NextDay Delivery offering that makes "hundreds of thousands of eligible items" available for next day shipping, without charging a membership fee. The retailer debuted NextDay earlier this year, and has since expanded it to cover nearly 75% of the population, Bratspies noted.

"It's early in stages, but it's starting to pick up and accelerate, and we feel pretty good about that."


Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.