Consumer Nation

Why Wait Until Black Friday? Retailers Tout Big Deals Early

Black Friday is more popular than ever with holiday shoppers, but that isn’t stopping retailers from trying to lure bargain hunters into the stores ahead of Thanksgiving.

Boots on sale
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To that end, Walmart stores nationwide will host a sale, Super Saturday, which will offer some Black-Friday-style deals. The event starts Nov. 5 at 11 am and the will go on while supplies last or until midnight Saturday.

These deals are yet another example of how retailers are trying to stir up excitement and get consumers in the door early this holiday season. It also underscores how deal-crazed consumers are at the moment.

According to the retail industry trade group, the National Retail Federation, today’s consumer has high expectations. They already expect retailers to offer low prices and strong promotions, but they also want to know what they’re getting on top of that.

Walmart’s answer to that has been to bring back layaway and introduce a Christmas Price Guarantee program.

Layaway and Price Guarantees

Layaway, which allows consumers to reserve a product and pay for it over time for a small fee, speaks to consumers who don’t want to rack up a lot of debt over the holidays.

The Christmas Price Guarantee speaks to other consumers who want a great deal, and are concerned about when they should time their purchases to get it. With this guarantee, shoppers know that if they see an item they purchased advertised for less at another store between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25, Walmart will refund the difference in the form of a Walmart gift card.

Other retailers are dangling other incentives. At Sears and Kmart, both units of Sears Holdings , consumers are offered five percent of the value of qualified purchases back through its Shop Your Way Rewards program. To qualify, shoppers have to have a Sears credit card.

Sears also has its own price-matching program. The retailer will match competitors’ advertised prices on the same items, plus give customers 10 percent of the difference. The bonus for Sears customers: they will get the refund in the form of tender that they paid for the item.

All of this also speaks to the greater transparency that there is with prices. Many customers either research purchases online before they shop or they use price comparison applications on their smartphones to get the best deal.

A sample of Walmart’s electronics deals for its Super Saturday promotion include a Nook Color e-reader, that will be priced at $199. It was selling for $249, Walmart said. An Xbox 360 250 gigabyte console with Kinect is priced at $399, plus you get a $50 Walmart gift card. A Sanyo 42-inch LCD TV will be selling for $398, down from $448.

Attention: Impulse Buyers

Walmart’s hope is that customers will come to buy these items, and then buy other things that aren’t on sale.

For example, Walmart also flagged its everyday low prices on some of the top holiday toys. Some of the prices were a pretty good value. For example, Cepia’s Xia-Xia hermit crabs are being sold at $9.88, compared with other retailers that are pricing the little characters at between $12 and $14 a piece.

However, Walmart’s price on the Fisher Price Action Construction Site with remote control was listed at $49.88. At Toys ‘R Us, that toy is currently selling for $39.99.

The toy retailer also is competing to woo shoppers early. It began a number of sales on Oct. 30 that will run through Thanksgiving. In addition to these deals, the retailer is advertising layaway and additional discounts through its loyalty program.

Shopping Around

So at the end of the day, shoppers have a lot of offers to consider, and many are taking the time to do just that.

The NRF said that in times of economic uncertainty consumers are willing to devote the time to find the “best” deal and they will shop all over the place, cherry picking the best deals.

People also aren’t discriminating. They will buy toys at a grocery store or stocking stuffers at a wholesale club, the NRF said.

And that explains all the activity, and also the early start times that many retailers are planning for the Black Friday madness. Kohl’s ,Macy’s and Target are all planning to open at midnight on the day after Thanksgiving, which is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Others have yet to disclose their plans. Among those retailers are Best Buy , which opened at 5 am last year, and Toys ‘R Us, which opened at 10 pm on Thanksgiving last year and stay open through 10 pm on Friday.

Questions? Comments? Email us at Follow Christina Cheddar Berk on Twitter @ccheddarberk.