Walmart lures consumers to its Walmart+ subscription with early access to Black Friday deals

Walmart+, the retailer’s low-cost alternative to Amazon Prime offering free shipping with no minimums, free grocery delivery and other perks, is now adding one more reason to become a subscriber: early access to Black Friday deals. The company announced today it will allow paying Walmart+ subscribers to gain early access to its Black Friday events throughout the month of November, including the ability to shop the deals four hours earlier than the scheduled start times for the three planned events.

This is the first time Walmart+ has bundled in some sort of early access to deals for the holiday shopping season. Before, the subscription service was primarily competing with Amazon Prime on free delivery with a few other perks, like discounted gas prices, the ability to use Scan & Go inside stores for faster checkouts and, more recently, savings on prescriptions.

The new addition is a timely one, as many consumers are likely worried about how supply chain disruptions due to COVID may impact their holiday shopping plans. With containers piling up outside ports, Walmart was already among the big retailers that booked their own private cargo ships to keep goods flowing. However, consumers are still being warned of potential merchandise shortages this year — including with toys, which are expected to be scarcer and more expensive, as well as consumer tech, due to the global chip shortages which have been hitting everything from iPhones to Xbox consoles to cars and more.

Walmart says it will again spread out its Black Friday shopping days across three separate events in November this year, with deals that start online before they arrive in the stores. The first event will take place on November 3 and will continue in stores starting on November 5. The second event begins November 10 and continues in-store November 12. And the third will arrive at the end of the month, encompassing the traditional Black Friday shopping day (November 26). Among the deals being offered are those for numerous toys and electronics, like LOL Surprise dolls, Keurig coffee makers, Shark vacuums, HP laptops, Roku streaming devices, 4K TVs, trampoline sets, Legos and more.

In each case, Walmart+ subscribers will get first access to the deals with a four-hour head start.

The idea to provide early access to deals to subscribers is an idea that Amazon has historically capitalized on with Amazon Prime. On top of the free shipping benefits and broad set of other perks, which include free streaming, free e-books and more, Amazon Prime members also get early access to Lightning Deals on Amazon throughout the holiday season and every day. Amazon also lets members shop first on its own sales holiday, Prime Day.

But Amazon’s Black Friday strategy this year was to roll out its deals earlier than ever, as many consumers were likely heeding the advice to start their shopping ahead of schedule this year in case of shortages. For Prime members, it introduced a new perk that would allow sending gifts to someone using just an email address or phone number.

Launched last year, Wamart+ remains a slightly more affordable free shipping service, compared with Amazon Prime. Walmart+ members can choose to pay $98 per year or they can pay $12.95 on a month-to-month basis. Prime, which offers a wider range of perks, is $119 per year or $12.99 per month. However, Walmart+ excludes free shipping on marketplace items, while Prime does include a selection of third-party sellers.

“We continue to build Walmart+ to be the ultimate life hack for our customers,” said Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer for Walmart U.S., in a statement about the launch of the new perk. “That means we’re there for our customers during the everyday with key benefits like free unlimited delivery from stores and free shipping with no order minimum, but it also means we create extra excitement for them during the big moments, like Black Friday. We’re excited for our Walmart+ members to be first in line for the hottest Black Friday deals out there,” she said.

Correction, 10/18/21: the first sales event occurs on Nov. 3, not Nov. 1; the post has been updated after publication to correct this.