Amazon Prime Day set for Oct 13 and 14 after coronavirus delayed original summer date

Key Points
  • Amazon Prime Day will take place Oct. 13 and 14 this year, the company announced Monday.
  • The company postponed its biggest shopping day of the year after the coronavirus generated unprecedented strain on its warehouses and shipping and logistics networks. 
  • The timing means the holiday shopping season will kick off earlier than ever. 
Men work at a distribution station in the 855,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York.
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon has finally set a date for this year's Prime Day after months of coronavirus-related delays.

Prime Day will once again run two days this year, with discounts kicking off at midnight PT on Oct. 13 and lasting through Oct. 14, Amazon announced Monday. Members of Amazon's Prime subscription program will get access to "over 1 million deals across every category," including toys, electronics and apparel, the company said.

It had already been speculated that Amazon would hold its marquee shopping event on Oct. 13 and 14, after the company sent around an internal notice and blacked out vacation requests for warehouse workers on those dates.

Prime Day, which started in 2015, is typically held in July. The discount celebration is partially designed to secure new Prime subscribers, to promote Amazon's products and services, and to provide a sales boost in the middle of the year.

Amazon was forced to put Prime Day on hold in the U.S. this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which generated unprecedented strain on its warehouses and shipping and logistics networks.

Like many retailers, Amazon was hit with a surge of online orders. The demand quickly caused supply chain shortages and delivery delays and it took several months for conditions to return to normal.

Amazon settled on a mid-October Prime Day after it consulted with its global teams and spent several months adjusting operations inside its warehouses to make it safer for employees to continue to work, said Jamil Ghani, vice president of Prime, in an interview with CNBC last week. 

"We've proceeded adaptively and we've come to the decision that Oct. 13 and 14 is the right time for us to have Prime Day," Ghani said. "We feel like the preparation we've done all year and for 20 years before that ensures that we will have a successful and, very importantly, a safe Prime Day."

The timing means that the holiday shopping period will begin earlier than ever. Typically, Amazon and other retailers might begin running promotions as the calendar ticks closer to Black Friday, which is the day after Thanksgiving and is the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season. Some Prime Day discounts and promotions are already launching on the site starting Monday, Amazon said. 

Retail rivals are starting to announce competing events to draw shoppers. Target said Monday that it will have two days of promotions, called Target Deal Days, on Oct. 13 and Oct. 14. It had a similar event last July that also coincided with Amazon Prime Day.

Target shared few details, but said in a statement that it "will feature digital deals on hundreds of thousands of items, more than double last year."

It's also unclear whether consumers will have as much of an appetite for holiday shopping this year amid widespread unemployment and shoppers prioritizing essential purchases. Industry watchers have predicted consumers may do more of their holiday shopping online in order to minimize trips in to the store. 

Ghani said he thinks shoppers will still seek out discounts despite the pandemic. 

"As much as things are different in 2020, there are some things that are the same, which is, we all want to celebrate the holiday season in the best way we can with friends and family," he added. "I expect there will be folks showing up for Prime Day shopping for themselves, some shopping for needs, some shopping for wants, others shopping for giftable items for the holiday, others trying to knock out their holiday shopping list early in order to spend some more time later with loved ones."

As part of this year's Prime Day, Amazon will prominently feature promotions from small- and medium-sized businesses on its platform. Starting on Monday through Oct. 12, Amazon said it will give Prime members a $10 credit to use on Prime Day if they spend $10 on items sold by select small businesses on the site.

-- CNBC's Melissa Repko contributed to this story.

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