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Walmart plans to spread out deals to avoid Black Friday crowds

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Walmart is splitting Black Friday into three separate sales events to prevent shoppers from crowding its stores during the coronavirus pandemic.

The nation’s biggest retailer will offer holiday shopping deals throughout the month of November in lieu of the usual discount bonanza on the day after Thanksgiving. The sales will start online as early as Nov. 4 and move into the physical stores a few days later, Walmart said Wednesday.

While the move is meant to push shoppers online, the Arkansas-based chain will take coronavirus-related precautions for those who decide to shop in person. Customers will have to wait in single-file lines to enter the stores, and employees dubbed “Health Ambassadors” will be stationed at the door to remind them to wear masks.

Walmart says it will also limit the number of customers allowed inside to promote social distancing and guide shoppers down the right sides of aisles as they move through the stores.

“By spreading deals out across multiple days and making our hottest deals available online, we expect the Black Friday experience in our stores will be safer and more manageable for both our customers and our associates,” Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart US, said in a news release.

Other retail giants have gotten an early start on holiday shopping this year as COVID-19 altered consumers’ spending habits and accelerated the shift toward online purchases.

Amazon moved its massive Prime Day sales event from July to this week as the pandemic strained its ability to handle a huge influx of orders earlier in the year. Target also started its annual Deal Days event on Tuesday, overlapping with Amazon’s discounts.

Walmart-owned wholesale chain Sam’s Club wrapped up its own October discount event this week and plans to offer deals on a greater number of days in November and December.

Walmart’s first Black Friday offering will start Nov. 4 with online deals for toys, electronics and home products, with in-store discounts to follow on Nov. 7. The second sales event will start online on Nov. 11 and move to stores on Nov. 14. The third will align with the Thanksgiving holiday with online deals starting Nov. 25 and in-store sales on Nov. 27.

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