Wal-Mart sets holiday deals this week

World's largest retailer, anxious to capture holiday sales early on, plans to offer a $348 laptop computer and a 50-inch plasma HDTV for $998.

By Parija B. Kavilanz, CNNMoney.com senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Forget about waiting for Black Friday. Wal-Mart is trotting out its holiday blockbuster deals this week.

Wal-Mart (Charts, Fortune 500), the world's largest retailer, unveiled five holiday sales items Thursday on its Web site, walmart.com.


The items are an Acer laptop with a 14-inch LCD screen for $348, a Sanyo 50-inch plasma HDTV for $998, Fisher-Price Nascar toy car for $144.72, HD DVD's for $14.96 and a Toshiba HD-DVD player for $98.87.

"We are calling these our Black Friday-like specials," said Melissa O'Brien, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart. She said consumers can find out more about the deals going to walmart.com/secret.

The special items are available for purchase only in Wal-Mart stores beginning this Friday. The retailer will also use its Web site to let shoppers check on the local availability of 1,000 electronics items.

Wal-Mart and other retailers, nervous that consumers will spend less on gifts, are anxious to capture holiday sales early this year.

In fact, Wal-Mart initiated its first round of deep discounts on holiday toys as early as Oct. 1, followed by a second round of price cuts on more toys and household appliances later in the month.

But the most-anticipated deals are still the Black Friday "doorbusters," which are offered for the first few hours on Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving. It's not unusual for people to line up in front of stores as early as 4 a.m. to bag the season's must-have items at low prices.

Wal-Mart is expected to unveil its complete Black Friday circular the week of Nov. 19.

In an effort to control how it markets Black Friday sales, Wal-Mart has threatened to bring legal action against a handful of Web sites that have leaked Black Friday deals in the past.

"This year we've created a site to announce our Black Friday specials so that consumers don't depend only on our Black Friday circular or these other Web sites for that information," said O'Brien.

Neal Rapoport, founder of Dealtaker.com, which received a legal notice from Wal-Mart, said he's learned that Wal-Mart will also have 24 items on sale in its stores that are open on Thanksgiving Day.

And starting on Cyber Monday - the Monday after Thanksgiving - Wal-Mart will have secret items on sale each day, according to Rapoport.

O'Brien said she could not confirm Rapoport's information.

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott told analysts last week that he was optimistic about Christmas sales despite his concerns that a housing downturn and tighter credit conditions have left Wal-Mart's low-income customers strapped for cash.

"I saw great merchandise and our customers are going to love our prices," promised Scott.

This year, Wal-Mart is also creating "Christmas shops" inside its stores to showcase holiday products. All Wal-Mart supercenter and discount stores will be visited by Santa on Thanksgiving weekend and Dec. 1, 2, 8 and 9, the retailer said.

"These shops are going to be terrific and our customers are going to love it," Scott said. "In the U.S., I feel we are properly positioned for Christmas." Top of page