U.S. retailers push deals early as Black Friday loses focus

Wed Nov 23, 2016 1:31pm EST
 
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By Nandita Bose

CHICAGO (Reuters) - With sales on Black Friday slipping, U.S. retailers are offering pre-Thanksgiving deals even earlier than in recent years to draw shoppers as the day after no longer marks a spending peak at brick-and-mortar chains.

Black Friday, as the day after Thanksgiving is called, has traditionally started the holiday shopping season in the United States and was the day when retailers turned a profit, thus going from “being in the red” to “in the black.”

Many retailers have started opening their stores on Thanksgiving evening to boost customer traffic and sales.

But the number of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers fell by nearly a third to 102 million in 2015, from 147 million in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. Moreover, early holiday promotions and online shopping hurt in-store spending by more than 6 percent last year, it said.

U.S. retailers, however, have redoubled efforts this year to boost sales with familiar tactics but greater intensity. Wal-Mart (WMT.N: Quote) has already said it will increase inventory by more than half this year and make deals typically reserved for Black Friday available online early Thanksgiving morning.

Retail pricing and data analytics firm Market Track said an analysis of 15 top U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers and their Black Friday circular announcements online showed they were about three days earlier than last year.

"They are all trying to beat each other to the punch and starting their promotions earlier and earlier every year," said Traci Gregorski, senior vice president, marketing at Market Track.

Last year, discounts on popular products deepened by 30 to 40 percent from Black Friday prices as Christmas got closer, according to Market Track data.   Continued...

 
Advertisements of the upcoming Black Friday sales are seen on TV screens at a Walmart store in Westminster, Colorado, U.S. November 23, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking