Retailers are pulling the trigger on Black Friday deals earlier than ever this year. A prelude to Walmart Corp.’s special offers bowed today on walmart.com. The retail behemoth is listing 18 deals — to whet consumers’ appetites for the main event that kicks off on walmart.com at 10 p.m. on Nov. 21, which is two hours earlier than last year.

Amazon launched a Countdown to Black Friday Sale on Nov. 5 with prices slashed on women’s private label apparel. “Up to 50 percent off women’s fashion from our brands,” screams a message on the online and digital giant’s web site. Amazon, which launched a number of new brands this year, is reportedly seeing a lackluster response from consumers, especially women.

Amazon shows no sign of abandoning private label. To the contrary, the e-tailer started promoting its proprietary brands on the listings of competitive products and introduced a program for third-party sellers to produce products specifically for Amazon’s homegrown brands.

“There really is no bigger or better day of the year than Black Friday,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer of Walmart U.S. “We’re confident customers will leave Walmart with items they’re looking for.”

Enhanced store maps found in the Walmart app will have pins showing where the top deals are located in the store on Thanksgiving Day, and “in stores on event night, each deal will be displayed with balloons and sales associates,” “Is convenience important? You bet it is,” Bratspies said.

During in-store events on Nov. 22 from 4 to 6 p.m. local time, themed, Light Up Black Friday, Walmart will break out new tools for easy shopping such as enhanced store maps in the Walmart app with pins showing where the top eight deals are located on Thanksgiving Day. Key departments, including apparel, home, electronics and toys will be color coded, and shoppers can use Check Out With Me, a remote payment option accessed through associates. Bratspies estimated that 4 million cups of coffee and 2 million cookies will be distributed at Light Up Black Friday events.

Bratspies said Walmart “is pretty agnostic about whether customers shop online or in stores. Our goal ultimately is to have customers choose Walmart. I looked at last year’s performance on Black Friday. All the feedback we’ve gotten this year indicates customers are excited. Yes, the season’s been stretched out a little, but we don’t think the excitement has been taken out of that date.”

Per usual, Black Friday deals will be heavy on electronics. IPhone 6 on Straight Talk or Total Wireless, $99 (special buy); iPad 6th Generation, $249 (save $80); Sony PS4 1TB Slim Spider-Man Bundle, $199 (special buy); boys’ and girls’ character two-piece sleep set, $4.75 (special buy), and Signature by Levi’s memory foam slippers, $7 (save $2.98).

The 18 Black Friday savings on items starting today include some of the steepest discounts such as a Sharp 55″ Class 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart LED TV for $299, a savings of $200.99. “We’ll have deeper availability than any other retailer,” claimed Bratspies. “We pride ourselves, versus the competition, on buying deeper. That said, I doubt we’ll have a lot of product sitting around on Friday. The inventory tends to go quicker online. Usually, the majority of it goes. There really is no bigger or better day of the year than Black Friday.”

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