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Walmart Kicks Off CE-Centric Holiday Season

Bentonville, Ark. — With Halloween nearing conclusion, Walmart is ready and waiting to flip the switch on its holiday-season program.

By tomorrow, all of its stores will be decked for Q4, and the world’s largest retailer will kick off its Christmas plans with a series of massive, CE-centric promotions.

More than 20,000 products will be sale-priced tomorrow, led by a heaping helping of electronics and toys, and the “Rollbacks” will be followed by an online-only sale on Monday.

The company said it is also considering extending its current price-match guarantee from local brick-and-mortar ads to online competitors, which would significantly raise the promotional tenor of what is already shaping up to be an aggressive, price-driven holiday.

“Our strategy is simple: lead with low prices, offer the best brands, make shopping easier than ever, and bring the holiday joy that only Walmart can deliver,” said chief merchandising officer Duncan Mac Naughton.

That strategy is also guiding Walmart’s entertainment departments, where “we’re focused on driving all major brands in electronics,” said Steve Bratspies, general merchandise executive VP, on a conference call with reporters. “We want to be a house of brands.”

To that end, the chain completed a CE department remodel over the summer that features “anchor tenants” like Apple and Samsung, and special displays to showcase them, he said.

CE is also front-and-center in Walmart’s promotional plans. The top-touted items for tomorrow’s kick-off sale are the Xbox One, sale priced for $349, down from $399; a Samsung 46-inch HDTV for $528, from $578; and a Dell Inspiron Touch 15.6-inch laptop for $479, from $549.

Online, Walmart will also offer tomorrow a 9-inch RCA tablet with 8GB memory for $69, down from $89, and a 50-inch Sceptre LED HDTV for $349, from $379.

A larger online effort will be mounted on Monday, when will offer 15 “Black Friday and Cyber Monday-like deals,” including a 40-inch Element LED HDTV for $199, down from $298.

In addition, a series of weekly online specials on CE, toys and other categories will run throughout the holiday period.

On the call, merchandising VP Phillip Oaks noted the website has 1 million more products since last holiday season for a total of 7 million items.

Other seasonal programs include free shipping on the “top 100 gift items” as determined by Walmart merchants, and added checkout lanes to help reduce queues in stores.

The executives declined to discuss their plans for the Black Friday-Cyber Monday period, nor the status of the online price-match program, which would formalize a current policy giving store managers quiet discretion over online price-match requests.

Looking ahead, Bratspies anticipates an aggressive promotional environment that will be “at least as competitive as last year.

“It rarely goes backwards,” he noted. “I expect it to be highly competitive throughout the season.”