Who needs Black Friday when there can be a whole month (or two) of sales? That’s the question many retailers are asking.
Each year, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving Day, is a shopping bonanza for consumers across the U.S. People around the country rush to stores early in the morning to get discounts off regularly priced items. Retailers, meanwhile, have historically relished the day, as sales skyrocket and, in some cases, may turn a year’s worth of losses into a profit (thus the use of “black” in its name).
This year, however, things are different. While Black Friday will still be a big, important day for many retailers, the shopping is starting early. Indeed, some of the world’s largest retailers, including Amazon (AMZN), Best Buy (BBY), and Wal-Mart (WMT) are all offering Black Friday-like deals much sooner this year to capitalize on what they believe is heavy consumer demand.
Amazon, for instance, has already launched a dedicated Black Friday page. The e-retail giant says that the Black Friday Deals store will offer “tens of thousands” of discounts between now and Dec. 22. While the store is similar to the company’s ongoing special promotions, it offers a wide range of cheap tech goodies. For example, as of this writing, Amazon is selling the Lytro Illum 40 Megaray camera for $400, a 69% discount off its retail price. Dell Inspiron PCs are discounted $100, and there are many more offers to come.
Best Buy is also getting into the mix. The big-box retailer announced late last month that in addition to a big Black Friday event, it’s offering free shipping to customers between now and Jan. 2 to celebrate the year’s biggest shopping day. On Nov. 7, Best Buy is holding a “Special Holiday Shopping Event” at 400 stores between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. local time. The stores “will offer Black Friday-like deals on this year’s hottest gifts,” Best Buy said in a statement.
Not even Wal-Mart can escape the allure of offering Black Friday deals early. While the company is promising its best deals for Nov. 27, it’s currently offering daily deals on its website to entice consumers to start shopping now.
Yoram Wurmser, retail analyst at eMarketer, says the early offers reflect the ways shoppers purchased goods last year. In fact, Wurmser argues that in the coming years, Black Friday won’t be as important of a shopping day as it once was.
“Black Friday this year will no longer be the singular shopping event that it was in past years,” Wurmser says. “Last year, brick-and-mortar stores saw fewer shoppers on Black Friday as shoppers flocked to online deals earlier during the Thanksgiving week, and especially on Thanksgiving Day itself. The ones who are shopping on Black Friday are also visiting fewer stores as they use mobile to search for nearby deals or to avoid crowds. Led by Wal-Mart’s decision to open stores on Thanksgiving evening, many in-store deals also peaked before Black Friday.”
In a separate report, eMarketer said on Wednesday that retail holiday season sales, which span the months of November and December, will exceed $885 billion in the U.S. alone this year, up 5.6% compared to the prior year. The growth is nearly double the total retail growth in 2013, and much higher than 2014’s 3.6% growth. The expected success of this holiday season is due in part to retailers’ increasing reliance upon early holiday season days, rather than Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to drive revenue.
Still, retailers won’t give up on Black Friday. All of the aforementioned retailers are promising big sales for Black Friday. In addition, several other retailers have had their Black Friday ads leaked to the Internet. In just the last several days, Black Friday-tracking sites have posted “ad scans” that they claim, are the real deals companies will offer this year. A Dell ad scan, for instance, showed the Inspiron 14 3000 notebook on sale for $150, a 50% discount off its regular retail price. And Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox One bundles could be discounted by $100 to $300, some retailer ads show.
It’s unknown whether the ad scans are indeed real, but regardless, if history is to be our guide, expect some nice deals on Black Friday. Just don’t be surprised if companies continue to offer steeply discounted pricing until then.
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For a look at how Black Friday may shape up this year, check out the following Fortune video: