Holiday promotional information trickled out in late October, and many campaigns will start in earnest after Halloween.

The holiday shopping season is a marathon, not a sprint, but one large retail chain has a head start on the competition.

Best Buy Co. Inc. wins the prize for being the first large retailer this year to move full-blast into holiday season messaging and promotions. The consumer electronics retail chain began using its “win the holidays” theme on social media Oct. 6, and also promoted it on Best Buy, No. 37 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, then added free shipping on all web orders for the season starting Oct. 25 and began airing its corresponding national TV campaign. 

Most retailers among the 100 large North American e-retailers Internet Retailer is analyzing as part of its ongoing coverage of the 2015 holiday season were more restrained in their messaging, free shipping offers and promotions. Based on retailers’ behavior in prior years and early news trickling out this year, consumers can expect that to change when the calendar flips to November this weekend.

Newegg Inc. has its holiday season promotional calendar mapped out and ready to launch on Sunday, Nov. 1. The online electronics retailer, No. 24 in the Top 500, is running its “Black November”-themed promotion throughout the month, offering deep discounts on a rotating array of products. For example, from Nov. 4-9 Newegg is focusing its deals on gaming, offering video game consoles, games and accessories. On Nov. 27 and Nov. 30, also known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it will offer other short-term discounts. “Black November gives our customers the flexibility to shop for deals on their terms,” says James Wu, Newegg chief operating officer. “People can take advantage of attractive pricing whenever the mood strikes them.”

With 84% of consumers saying they will start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving weekend, Newegg’s early promotions should be a hit with those shoppers.


“Holiday shopping definitely does not begin on Black Friday,” says Robert Passikoff, founder and president of consumer research consultancy Brand Keys Inc., commenting on that company’s annual national holiday shopping survey results. 98% of that survey’s nearly 16,000 participants said they would buy gifts online during the holidays.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will also kick off its holiday effort Nov. 1. The retail chain says it will focus on offering low prices all season long and that it plans to show off to consumers how well it’s tied together its online and mobile assets with its more than 5,200 U.S. stores.  “We’re delivering the prices customers expect, but we’ve taken it up a notch,” says Judith McKenna, chief operating officer, Walmart U.S.

Wal-Mart expects nearly 75% of traffic to to originate from mobile devices in November and December, and 210 million visitors to its mobile app. The retailer has added a mobile check-in feature to its app that lets a consumer picking up an online order alert the store that she is there. Wal-Mart, however, will not offer free shipping on orders under $50, as it has done during past holiday seasons. The retailer said Thursday that orders under $50 will have fees, but not if shoppers choose the in-store pickup option.

Macy’s Inc. (No. 7 in the 2015 Top 500) is also prioritizing mobile during the holidays. Over Thanksgiving weekend—stores open on Thanksgiving evening—consumers who have the mobile app and visit a Macy’s store will be offered the chance to play a game on their mobile phones and be entered to win prizes. Macy’s is using beacons to push messaging to app users in store.


Office Depot Inc. (No. 8) says it, too, is ready to hit go with its holiday season campaign theme called “gear up for gifting.” The retail chain says every Monday and Friday in November it will offer special deals, starting Nov. 2 under the banner of “every Monday is Cyber Monday.”  It, like many large e-retailers including No. 1 Inc., has placeholder web pages—in Office Depot’s case—where it will list Black Friday and Cyber Monday deal information. In the meantime, the pages encourage visitors to sign up for email notifications.

In addition to Best Buy, a handful of other retailers got a head start on their online holiday messaging, with many offering online shoppers gift guides.

HSN Inc. (No. 25) opened its “Merry happy gift shop” gift guide, (No. 47) is broadcasting its gift guide on its home page, and Wayfair LLC (No.33) is offering “merry markdowns” on seasonal home and table decor on its home page. While Neiman Marcus (No. 43) published its annual Christmas Book of aspirational gifts during the first week of October, it is not yet promoting it aggressively online. A link to the Christmas Book appears at the bottom of the home page.

Perhaps anticipating consumers will be weary of shopping by the time Black Friday actually arrives, No. 74-ranked Recreational Equipment Inc., this week began offering an alternative with messaging using the hashtag #optoutside. REI says all its 143 physical stores will be closed the day after Thanksgiving and a skeleton staff will be oversee the website. Employees get a paid day off and encouragement to head outside. In a letter posted to and a video posted to YouTube, president and CEO Jerry Stritzke explains it this way: “We’re a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.”