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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is making Black Friday a weeklong event, shifting away from the chaotic one-day sales that once epitomized the day after Thanksgiving.

The “New Black Friday” will include five days of sales on Walmart.com and in stores, starting at 12:01 a.m. online on Thanksgiving and running through Cyber Monday, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said Wednesday.

“Black Friday has become Black Friday week,” Duncan Mac Naughton, Wal-Mart’s chief merchandising officer, told reporters Tuesday. “Our customers want to shop when they want to shop so we’re trying to expand the times and product availability with them.”

Wal-Mart is spreading out its promotions to lure shoppers during a holiday season that promises to hold a number of challenges. While analysts have predicted retail sales would gain this month and next, many of those purchases are expected to shift online or be won with discounts that threaten retailers’ profitability.

Wal-Mart also is dealing with choppy spending by consumers who haven’t seen their wages grow much despite the job market’s recovery. The company is expected to report that sales in the quarter through October rose 2.3 percent when it reports earningsThursday, according to the average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The holiday shopping season is pivotal for merchants, with sales in November and December expected to account for about 19 percent of annual revenue, according to the National Retail Federation. Spending this holiday season may rise 4.1 percent, more than last year’s 3.1 percent gain, the trade group has forecast.

Wal-Mart is running waves of in-store sales at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving and again at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, Mac Naughton said. Walmart.com’s deals will start early on Thanksgiving to capture the growing number of shoppers looking for deals before sitting down for turkey.

Retailers including J.C. Penney Co., Staples Inc. and Macy’s Inc. are planning to open earlier than ever on Thanksgiving to lure shoppers. Best Buy Co. joined the parade yesterday, saying it would have more than 1,000 stores open from 5 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving, with most remaining open until 1 a.m. on Black Friday. The stores will reopen at 8 a.m. Black Friday.

Target Corp. said earlier this week that it would open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than in 2013. The retailer offered some deals on its website on Nov. 10 and will roll out more on its mobile-phone application starting Nov. 23. Its stores will have some promotions as early as Nov. 26, the day before Thanksgiving.

Gap Inc. said Wednesday that more than 800 of its Old Navy stores would open at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving and remain open until 11 p.m. on Black Friday — a 31-hour stretch.

The race to open earlier on Thanksgiving underscores how Black Friday is becoming a less crucial shopping event amid the rise of online commerce. About 70 percent of consumers consider Black Friday unimportant because of the prevalence of sales throughout the holiday season, according to a report this month from Accent Marketing Services in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Shoppers also are increasingly turning to the Web and away from brick-and-mortar stores. About 49 percent of consumers plan to research products and make purchases on Thanksgiving morning this year, up from 31 percent in 2013, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP said in its 2014 holiday outlook last month.

“Black Friday is no longer an event for customers who wake up at the crack of dawn to get great deals,” Mac Naughton said. “It’s become a family shopping tradition where everyone shops at some point throughout the weekend.”

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