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Get That Turkey to Go — Black Friday Arrives Earlier

Stacey Widlitz | Retail Consultant and Independent Analyst
Thursday, 8 Nov 2012 | 11:28 AM ET

Good news! Wal-Mart will help you work off that turkey dinner with even earlier Black Friday offers this year. Every year retailers move up the kick-off to bargain hunting in order to get a head start in the holiday market share game. And this year will not be any different.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Wal-Mart will start the deals at 8 p.m., a move up from the 10 p.m. slot last year. Maybe next year we will just cancel Thanksgiving? (Read More: Gobble That Turkey—Walmart Moves Black Friday Earlier)

Other retailers will likely follow the discount retailer's lead. After all, 10 percent of holiday sales will be at stake during the Black Friday mania. Sorry to say, but if you work for a retailer, ask your host for a doggy bag for your turkey. But there is always Christmas, right?

So do earlier Black Friday start times really matter? The simple answer is no. If the majority of retailers follow suit and all open early, the dynamics remain the same. (In other words, shoppers, if you want an item, get there early because quantities are often limited.) And let's face it, discounts start well before Black Friday. (Read More: Despite the Scorn, Consumers Embrace 'Christmas Creep')

Last year, there was no shortage of pre-sales. Macy's had such great deals in the week leading up to Black Friday that I am not sure why I would choose to get trampled. Additional retailers also offer pre-sales.

For example, at Saks if you have a loyalty credit card, then you can place items on hold, and they will be charged on Black Friday. The only difference is that you will be safe at home.

As holiday sales start earlier every year, retailers are simply pulling sales forward. Last year, the early kick-off backfired for some retailers. After an early promotional start resulting in better traffic for November, shopping fatigue set in.

This resulted in a lull of consumer traffic during the first half of December and led to a last minute promotional panic (and lower margins) as we rounded the corner toward Christmas. The promotional drug has an ugly face.

Retailers have trained the consumer well, and that is not always good for the bottom line.

Stacey Widlitz is the President of SW Retail Advisors Inc. She has worked at UBS, SG Cowen, Fulcrum Partners and in 2005 was one of three analysts to launch the Research Department at Pali Capital, where she covered Retail and Home Video for 5 years. Follow Stacey on Twitter @StaceyRetail.

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