With his belly full of Halloween sweets, Santa Claus will start landing at local shopping malls this week , signaling the official start of the holiday spending season.
While Black Friday is expected to hold its spot as the busiest shopping day of the year, that hasn’t stopped retailers from continuing to court shoppers long before the Thanksgiving turkey hits the table.
Black Friday sales are expected to inch even earlier this year as retailers try to compete with Amazon and other online sellers. In an effort to win over shoppers, some stores will likely start offering Black Friday prices days before Thanksgiving.
Want a sneak peek at Black Friday sales? Here are links to ads, deals
“A lot of stores are really trying to surprise the competition,” said Lindsay Sakraida, Director of Content Marketing with DealNews. “We will see Black Friday caliber deals even earlier this year.”
Although it may seem like the holiday season creeps earlier every year, the push to move up gift-related spending has been around for decades.
In 1939, the Palm Beach County Commission said it favored moving Thanksgiving up a week — an effort by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt to boost employment and holiday spending. Florida’s governor had already decided not to move Thanksgiving, but that didn’t stop the county commission from acting on a request from the Merchants Division of the Chamber of Commerce.
“It was pointed out that merchants’ groups in Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville and other Florida cities are advocating an earlier Thanksgiving because shopping starts immediately after the holidays and this would add a week to the shopping period,” according to an article that appeared in The Palm Beach Post on Sept. 26, 1939.
Roosevelt’s push was controversial, even within Palm Beach County. Although supported by the county commission, the mayor of Lake Worth turned down the idea, issuing a proclamation on Oct. 20, 1939 that Thanksgiving would remain on its traditional date.
For today’s shoppers, the push to beat the competition has taken some of the stress off of Thanksgiving Day — giving shoppers the ability to look for deals earlier, so they can enjoy the holiday with their friends and family, Sakraida said.
“With Black Friday creep, I think it is a really good thing for consumers if only because it takes a little bit of the pressure off of Thanksgiving shopping,” Sakraida said.
Boca Raton-based Office Depot announced last month that it would give customers a jump start on their holiday shopping by offering early Black Friday deals beginning on Oct. 29. The retailer is also offering Cyber Monday discounts on its website every Monday through Nov. 20.
“Customers are shopping earlier each year,” Marko Ibrahim, senior vice president of North America retail for Office Depot, said in a prepared statement announcing the early sales. “By offering more deals on tech, services, furniture and more, earlier and weekly until Black Friday, we hope to make the holiday shopping experience even better for them.”
But even as holiday sales start earlier, other year-round deals and discounts have weakened Black Friday’s allure, according to results of Accenture’s 11th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey.
A growing number of shoppers are purchasing more of their holiday gifts throughout the year, a shift that could be a blow for retailers looking to boost sales during the busy winter season, the survey found.
“Given the rise of constant discounts and promotions on sites such as Amazon, consumers are doing more of their holiday shopping year-round, and this is proving to be the biggest competitor to the traditional peak holiday shopping days,” said Jill Standish, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s Retail practice.
Of the 1,500 consumers that Accenture surveyed, nearly two-thirds said they shop for holiday gifts year-round, while about 44 percent said they were able to find equally good discounts on other days of the year.
Meanwhile, as the popularity of online shopping continues to grow, Americans are less likely to brave the crowds on peak holiday shopping days this year, including Black Friday, the survey found.
To compete, retailers are focused on creating unique experiences for shoppers that can’t be replicated online.
“Smart retailers are taking a longer-term view of the season,” Standish said. “Rather than just striving to win new sales through ever-lower discounts, they instead see the holidays as an opportunity to define their purpose, engage in a way that is memorable and be clear about the role they will play in shoppers’ lives both practically and emotionally. Experiences that are distinct, memorable and worth sharing with others can be the foundation for a more-profitable, enduring and year-round relationship.”
Take Target. In its brick and mortar stores this December, Target will offer interactive photo booths that let shoppers snap a picture of themselves sliding down the chimney with Santa.
On weekends in December, shoppers can sample holiday treats and participate in interactive demonstrations featuring top toys.
Even as consumer shopping habits shift, the holiday shopping season is expected to remain a key period for brick-and-mortar stores. The season’s 10 busiest shopping days are expected to account for as much as 45 percent traffic at stores in November and December, according to ShopperTrak, a global provider of consumer behavior insight and location-based analytics.
This year there are 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas — one day more than there was in 2016 — giving shoppers extra time to buy items.
And December has four Saturdays before Christmas — a combination that hasn’t happened since 2012.
The longer shopping season coupled with growing consumer confidence is expected to boost holiday sales by as much as 4 percent this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
“Although this year hasn’t been perfect, especially with the recent devastating hurricanes, we believe that a longer shopping season and strong consumer confidence will deliver retailers a strong holiday season,” the federation’s President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a prepared statement released last month with as part of the annual forecast.
Shoppers are expected to spend between $678.75 billion and $682 billion in November and December, up from $655.8 billion during the same time frame last year, the federation said.