Here’s Why Black Friday Is Starting Early This Year

Retailers are opening their doors and releasing deals earlier than ever this holiday season to get shoppers’ attention ahead of Black Friday.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) will unveil its in-store specials at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving day instead of waiting until Friday, while Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Kohl’s (NYSE:KSS), Macy’s (NYSE:M), and Target (NYSE:TGT) have all said they plan to open their doors at midnight on Friday.

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Wal-Mart’s 10 p.m. specials will cover toys, home, and apparel. Sales of electronics, which began last year at 5 a.m., will begin at midnight on Friday. Wal-Mart also released its Black Friday deals early this year, posting them on Facebook and Walmart.com.

Best Buy gave an early preview on Thursday of its specials for Black Friday via Facebook and Twitter. Last year, the company didn’t announce its deals until the Sunday before Black Friday.

Facing increased competition from online retailers like Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), which is already promoting Black Friday deals, many other retailers are getting an early start on holiday shopping.

Stores “finally recognize they have to compete with online retailers,” said NPD Group analyst Marshal Cohen, adding that Black Friday deals are no longer a surprise as they were in the past for that reason.

Drawing foot traffic to stores is crucial, as retailers anticipate that people will pick up other goods once there, and will hopefully continue to come back over the rest of the holiday season.

According to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs, 34% of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday this year, up from 31% in 2010 and 26% in 2009. The survey also showed that a larger number of shoppers are expected to be bargain-hunting for themselves rather than buying gifts.

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In an effort to better compete with online retailers, many stores are offering free shipping and price-matching guarantees, while others are tapping into the mobile front. With more shoppers buying form their mobile devices, Wal-Mart has released its first app for the iPad and an updated version for the iPhone in hopes to stealing some of that Internet traffic. The apps also allow shoppers to see where and how many products are available in their local stores.

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