Sales are also happening earlier. On Nov. 1, Amazon was one of the first to release its Black Friday deals, with more than 100 million items discounted up to 30 percent.
When asked which retailer an advisor was most worried about this holiday season, he responded with "it's the one I'm not worried about I'm worried about."
Vendors are increasingly wearing the pants in their relationship; if they get spooked about a company's long-term well-being they can pull their products in a chain of events that can propel a company into bankruptcy. This dynamic can happen even with retailers not on death watch. Appliances and electronics retailer HHGregg filed for bankruptcy several months after last holiday season, a move that took many industry insiders by surprise. One of its core problems was that vendors had stopped supporting it through the holidays.
Buy online, pick up in store
Retailers have been focusing on ramping up their online shopping for years. More recently though, they have been focusing on getting shoppers to pick up those purchases in store. In doing so, stores save themselves shipping costs.They also get the buyers to shop more, picking up otherwise unintended merchandise. Stores like Kohl's have sought to increase in-store pick up by rewarding those who do with loyalty points. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart rolled out its in-store pick up discount. It has also has been charging customers more online than its stores, according the Wall Street Journal.
Amazon's private-label push
The e-retailer has been leaning hard on its private label offerings and the holidays are an opportunity for it to further push these initiatives. Amazon has introduced more than than 20 private-label brands in the past two years in categories like clothes, electronics, groceries, according to Bain. It is also using its search technology to help promote those brands. If a shopper searches for an item on Alexa that is offered by Amazon private label, Alexa first recommends the private-label products 17 percent of the time, according to Bain. On the Amazon website, its private-label products make up an average of 11 percent of first-page search results.
Is fashion enough?
Fashion, which one drove shoppers to stores in the past, no longer has the pull it once did as millennials spend more on experiences than clothes. In-store sales of clothing and accessories grew 0.6 percent from January through September of this year, with stronger growth seen in food, and beverage, restaurants and furniture. But retailers are not giving up using apparel to help drive in traffic. Retailers continue to focus on designer exclusives and high-margin private label offerings. Macy's, for example has said it is looking to shift its combination of exclusives and private label offerings from 29 percent to 40 percent over time.