Wal-Mart Launches Its 1st Online Year-End Deals

(Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Bargain basement deals normally reserved for Black Friday and Cyber Monday are already emerging – a month earlier than usual – as stores race to claim a share of what is forecast to be a lukewarm shopping season.

Wal-Mart launched a slate of online offers Friday, including 51 percent savings on a 10-inch Xelio tablet. The retailer said the $299 and $49 price tags, respectively, were the lowest it’s ever offered for those products.

The chain discounter also unveiled bargains on the Sodastream soda maker and products from Apple, Disney, Nintendo and Vizio.

To sweeten the deal, Wal-Mart said it was offering its most expansive free-shipping program. Orders over $50, including 99 percent of items on Walmart.com, are eligible.

The company said it tripled the number of products that can be ordered online and picked up in stores on the same day. The retailer is also trying to lure more customers via digital channels, urging them to learn about deals via email, Facebook or the company’s mobile application.

Joel Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com, said in a statement that customer traffic tends to spike in the beginning of November.

“Customers want to relax with friends and family during (this time of year), and with our early deals, we are helping them make the most of their time and helping them stretch their dollars further,” he said.

Also Friday, Amazon.com launched its Black Friday Deals Store. In an unprecedented move, the e-commerce giant is running two Deals of the Day each day through Dec. 22.

Morgan Stanley, in a report Thursday that predicted the worst year-end shopping season since 2008, worried that early discounting could hurt retailer profits.

Malls are already entering the season at a disadvantage: the shortest shopping season time frame in years, lingering aftershocks from the government shutdown and weak consumer confidence.

Several more chains – J.C. Penney and Macy’s among them – are opening on Thanksgiving this year without bothering to wait for Black Friday.

Year-end shopping amounts to as much as 40 percent of some retailers’ annual revenue – putting pressure on companies that have slogged through a slow year of sales.

Earlier, data firm ShopperTrak predicted that year-end sales growth would be the slowest in four years.