Stores Push Black Friday Into October
While in the past Target has issued a standard circular before Thanksgiving, this year the discounts are deeper, more items will be discounted and the focus will be on gift-ready items in toys, electronics and entertainment, said Kathee Tesija, Target’s executive vice president of merchandising.
“The economy does play into it a little bit — this is always a very competitive time of year,” Ms. Tesija said. “We want them to come to us first, middle, last.”
She said discounts had to be good because shoppers had gotten smarter. “Throughout the recession, I think they’ve been very thoughtful about how they spend their money. They know when they’re getting a good deal.”
Some stores are holding out until Thanksgiving week, like Bon-Ton Stores, which will put most of its merchandise on sale the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
J.C. Penney will run a one-day sale on Nov. 17, adding to the “Biggest Sale of Them All” on Nov. 6, a “Huge Sale” on Nov. 20 and a “Day Before Thanksgiving” sale on Nov. 24.
The early sales extend to the Web. At Amazon.com, beyond the electronics sales beginning this week, the Black Friday deal page will go live sometime around the week of Thanksgiving, offering big discounts on popular products.
Wal-Mart’s Web site will also run discounts starting in early November, offering up to 30 percent off 200 items a week in categories like toys, electronics, home and other gifts.
And Staples.com will offer discounts of more than 50 percent on some items like laptops, cameras and printers on the Sunday through Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Even with the effort to capture more sales through early promotions, there is no guarantee that retailers will see a bounce in their bottom lines.
In the three years before the financial crisis, there was accelerated spending in early November, said Mike Berry, director of industry research for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which estimates total retail sales.
But in 2008 and 2009, as shopping creep took hold, spending was weaker. One explanation is that retailers cut prices too steeply, leading perhaps to increased traffic but low revenue over all. And customers simply refused to buy anything at full price.
Brad Wilson, who runs BlackFriday2010.com, said he expected consumers to have the upper hand again this year.
“After an exhilarating late 2008 and full-year 2009, this year has been boring in the ‘great deals’ corner of retail,” he said in an e-mail. “October has started to pick that up, and I think November and December could break it wide open.”
Robert Buchanan, a finance professor who specializes in retail at the John Cook School of Business at Saint Louis University, said shoppers had become smart enough to sidestep the regularly priced goods.
“My guess is that the majority are just cherry-picking the special items,” he said. “They’re looking for the $6 toaster and they’re on their way.”