As Americans pop their turkeys in the oven, retailers are
bracing for the start of their biggest weekend of the year. Thursday's
"Black Friday" sales are expected to draw tens of millions of people in
search of heavy discounts, and some may head out even before breakfast.
The weekend's deals start as early as 6 a.m. Thursday when Kmart opens opens its doors for some pre-feast shopping.
Louisville, Ky., Pam McCurdy was in line outside Kmart at 4 a.m.
planning to buy an Android tablet and flatscreen TV. By 6:25 a.m., she
was done shopping.
"We've got it down to a science," McCurdy says. Estimated savings: $200.
retailers have early evening openings - Walmart and Best Buy kick off
Black Friday sales at 6 p.m., followed by the likes of Macy's, Target,
Kohl's, JC Penney, and Sears at 8 p.m. That's an hour earlier than last
year, when most retailers opened at 9 p.m.
Due to the timing of
the calendar year, retailers lose a week of crucial time to get shoppers
to shell out this holiday season. Thanksgiving falls late and there are
just four weeks between it and Christmas. Retailers are pushing deals
earlier than ever and some even promoted pre-Black Friday sales last
"All the days are basically blurring," says Brad Wilson,
CEO of BradsDeals.com, a website that aggregates the best of online
deals and coupons. "Ultimately, the more important these days get to
retailers, the more competitive they have to be to get our attention and
the better deals we get."
Nearly a quarter of shoppers, 33
million people, will head to stores on Thanksgiving Day in search of
those deals, according to the National Retail Federation.
Black Friday still reigns as the most popular kick-off to the holiday
shopping season. That's when 97 million people will shop -- nearly 70%
of people who say they have shopping plans for Thanksgiving weekend,
according to a retail federation survey.
started camping out in front of stores last week. Carmen Thompson, 37,
of Louisville, Ky., has been sleeping in a tent outside Best Buy.
would not have the Christmases we have if I did not sleep outside," she
says. Thompson, who has seven children ages 2-19, camped out last year
"This will become our new family tradition," she says. "As we get older, all of my children will probably camp out with me."
holiday season is the most important time of year for retailers and
touts the most opportunities for savings for shoppers. It can account
for 20% and up to 40% of a retailer's annual sales, according to NRF,
which expects sales in November and December to be up 3.9% this year.
That's a marginal increase over last year, when sales increased 3.5%.
other than heavy post-holiday discounts, the days surrounding
Thanksgiving are the best time for consumers to shop, Wilson says.
absolutely a time for us as consumers to knock off as much of our
shopping as possible," he says. "The game plan for consumers is if you
want to go out, try to pick off the best 10 or 20 deals in stores. I'm
talking the $99 TV at Walmart, the $199 iPad mini." Then head online,
where there are more deals and you can shop on your own time.
"Don't stay at Walmart for six hours and buy a bunch of other stuff," Wilson says. "That's where they get you."
a competitive retail environment, many stores feel compelled to offer
the steepest price cuts and more days to get deals in order to capture
shoppers' dollars. But discount frenzy isn't necessarily a boon for
retailers' bottom line.
Best Buy executives admitted in an
earnings call earlier this month that stores will offer more promotions
in the fourth quarter in order to keep up with competition, but that it
"will have a negative impact on our gross margin."
Others say this
year's earlier-than-ever strategy just gets consumers to shop at
different times, not spend more. Plus our discount culture has led to
sacrificing quality, says Ronald Goodstein, associate professor of
marketing at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.
says retailers have to negotiate with manufacturers to be able to buy
goods that will still make a profit at the sale price, which leads to
using cheaper materials. "They're actually killing quality in order to
make money," he says. Instead of gaining an advantage, "all they're
going to do is be even with each other."
Stores that embrace
multi-channel shopping may be more successful. Nearly 70% of shoppers
plan to use their phones to help make purchase decisions during the
holidays, according to Deloitte's annual holiday survey.
The most popular functions include looking up store locations, comparing prices, and researching products, the survey found.
many are still reluctant to actually make a purchase through their
phone, a separate Deloitte survey out last year on the influence of
mobile found that consumers who use their phones while shopping in
stores are 14% more likely to make a purchase than those who don't use
their smartphone to shop.
"It's really this combination of
different channels that will help retailers drive more revenue," says
Lisa Gomez, a principle in Deloitte's retail consulting practice.