Retail stores not waiting until Black Friday to offer deals
More stores offer early sales and online deals to lure holidays shoppers
Ely Portillo / Charlotte Observer
If you think you’ve been seeing more sales and holiday merchandise out earlier, it’s not your imagination. Holiday creep has continued, with retailers offering early sales, free online shipping and more to gain an edge.
Many stores started selling holiday merchandise earlier this year, such as Wal-Mart, with its mid-September rollout. Stores are opening earlier than ever on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with Best Buy, Target, Macy’s and Kohl’s opening at midnight for the first time.
Again this year, some retailers will even open on Thanksgiving.
Charlotte-based Belk department stores will open at 3 a.m. on Black Friday, an hour earlier than last year.
The retailer is also offering early-bird specials on its website starting at 12:01 a.m. on Thanksgiving.
Online shopping keeps growing every year, offering consumers an alternative to shivering in line at 1 a.m. on Black Friday. The National Retail Federation, a trade group, is reporting that nearly 93 percent of retailers will offer some kind of online shipping, and a third say their free shipping offers will start earlier.
And pre-sales, like Wal-Mart’s just-completed “Super Saturday” event featuring “Black Friday-like” deals, could soak up more consumer demand.
Could all the pre-sales and the online push dampen the craziness typical on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and often the single biggest shopping day each year?
“Black Friday is being diluted,” said Phoenix, Ariz.-based retail analyst Jeff Green. “You can find deep discounts if you look hard enough any time, not just Black Friday.”
Still, last year’s $10.7 billion in sales was the most ever on Black Friday. And all those extra shopping hours, sales and different ways for consumers to buy stuff could end up boosting overall holiday sales even further.
“I think people who talk about Black Friday being diluted are deranged or delusional,” said Britt Beemer, who surveys consumers as head of America’s Research Group. He’s forecasting this year’s Black Friday will be the busiest ever, with sales driven by retailers’ targeted discounting. Beemer is predicting fully half of American consumers will shop before 8 a.m. on Black Friday.
“Stores open early, stores advertise to the world how much they have in stock,” he said. “Those are ingredients Black Friday has that no other sale has.”
And doorbuster deals on big-ticket items like electronics will still be the most sharply discounted chance to purchase many hot items, Beemer said – and the only way to get many of those is to line up at a store.
Black Friday results could be especially important this year, as retailers compete for shoppers’ business while the economy remains on shaky ground. Unemployment remains high, housing is still weak and the news is dominated by gloomy stories about Greece’s debt and the ever-looming possibility of a “double-dip” recession.
The NRF is forecasting that total holiday sales will rise about 2.8 percent this year, well below last year’s 5.2 percent jump. And though holiday sales overall rebounded strongly last year, Black Friday growth was anemic, with ShopperTrak counting only a 0.3 percent increase in sales.
Green conceded that Black Friday will likely always have a large following, no matter how many other sales retailers offer shoppers.
“Consumers have a dichotomy in their minds about Black Friday,” he said. “There are some who hate it and will never shop it. Others love it…They view it as a sport.”