Black Friday sales changing
Many retailers offer deals ahead of traditional rush
Officially, the day of uber-shopping known as Black Friday is just nine days away. And many people are already scouring the Internet to gather information and plan their day of bargain hunting.
But the fabled day-after Thanksgiving extravaganza – so named because retailers traditionally made enough in sales to put them financially in the black for the year – is changing, experts say.
Following a trend that emerged a few years ago, many retailers now offer Black Friday pricing and “door-buster” specials in advance of that day. The shaky economy, some experts say, means people should not expect to find spectacular savings seen in past years because year-to-date retail sales have been poor.
“They really need to add an ‘s’ to it and start calling it Black Fridays because it no longer is one specific day anymore,” said retail consultant Jeff Green of Jeff Green Partners Inc. For example, on Oct. 31, Sears kicked off its “Black Friday Now” program, offering Black Friday pricing each Saturday on a rotating selection of items.
Sears spokesman Natalie Norris-Howser said a lot of customers asked if they could have Black Friday events before the day after Thanksgiving. In the last few years, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has offered Black Friday specials in advance from Internet purchases. Its success has spurred Best Buy and Target Corp. to begin offering Web site-only specials prior to the day after Thanksgiving.
Over the last five years, several Web sites have disclosed discounting planned by retailers on Black Friday. That prompted some retail chains to use their own Internet sites to push their Black Friday promotions.
“Retailers are less concerned about tipping off the competition on their pricing and more inter-ested in getting that information out to the customers and making themselves the place to be on Black Friday,” said Scott Krugman, a National Retail Federation spokesman.
Michael Brim, who operates the bfads.net site which discloses Black Friday advertisement prices, said he now gets even more information from retailers.
“We don’t get too many cease-and-desist orders from the other major stores like we used to,” he said.
Logistically, consumers who shop on Black Friday will find planning their trip harder than ever this year.
“Early bird” shopping used to mean 6 a.m., but JCPenney Co. moved its opening to 4 a.m. last year, Target and Meijer Inc. pushed their openings back an hour to 5 a.m. this year, and Wal-Mart plans to be open on Thanksgiving and stay open through Friday. Old Navy will be open from noon to 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving for its Black Friday sales.
Consumers may be slightly disappointed by the pricing they find. “Black Friday doesn’t represent as high a percentage of Christmas sales as it once did and retailers have kept inventory levels really, really low this year, so people are not going to see the discounts we saw last year,” said Mr. Green, the retail consultant.
Mr. Brim of bfads.net agreed. Target will sell a 32-inch LCD television for $250, and Best Buy a laptop computer for $400, but those deals aren’t as good as last year’s, he said.