Retailers Move Sales Earlier In Thanksgiving Week, Begin Black Friday Creep

Image courtesy of Michael Holden

Maybe it doesn’t matter whether retailers open on Thanksgiving Day or not. Trying to attract our dollars and our attention, stores moved their deals even farther back this year, in a holiday season arms race that will only end when they’ve gone all of the way around the calendar, and sales for the following year begin on Black Friday.

That’s only a slight exaggeration of what’s really happening: Reuters cites research from retail analytics firm Market Track showing that the largest brick-and-mortar retailers in the country began their sales around three days earlier than in 2015. We’ve posted a few examples on this site as they were announced: JCPenney began their Black Friday on Wednesday. Online, Amazon has been offering Black Friday-like deals for all of November, and other big boxes have moved back their start dates and made some deals available online early.

That seems like it would be good news for shoppers, but it really wasn’t, since savvier shoppers also now the other thing that Market Track found. Special loss leaders aside, the best deals come later in the holiday season, with prices falling by 30 to 40 percent and promotions escalating. Those doorbusters tend to be the same year after year anyway, leaving shoppers without much reason to leave the house when they could be grocery shopping.

Department stores seem anxious to get any shoppers in the door at all, offering exclusive rewards to customers who make the effort to shop in person. Last year, the retail industry reached a point that’s good news for family togetherness, but bad news for people who run retail stores: for the first time, Americans spent more online than in person during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend.