Consumers are still unwrapping Halloween candy, but that isn’t stopping retailers from trying to get them thinking about wrapping Christmas presents.
An array of major retailers unveiled their holiday promotional plans on Wednesday, with some merchants, including Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, kicking off their holiday sales 53 days before Christmas.
“It seems as if Christmas comes earlier every year, but this year has been particularly challenging for retailers,” says Rebecca Lieb, an analyst at research and advisory firm Kaleido Insights. “We’ve seen many long-standing Main Street brands go under, unable to meet the challenges posed by e-commerce. Amazon is the 500-pound gorilla in the space, determining how high the bar is raised. The other major brands must follow.”
Amazon kicked off its holiday sales Wednesday with a Black Friday Deals online store, offering shoppers limited-time deals on products ranging from televisions to toys to apparel. Black Friday refers to the Friday after Thanksgiving, while Cyber Monday refers to the following Monday; historically both days are among the most lucrative days of the year for retailers.
Amazon is hardly alone in pushing out early online holiday promotions.
Here’s a look at what other major e-commerce players are offering early bird holiday shoppers:
- Jeweler JamesAllen.com (No. 140) began offering a Black Friday in October sale online beginning Oct. 29. James Allen then followed up that promotion by notifying shoppers of its Cyber Monday in October event that began Oct. 30 and ends Nov. 6.
- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (No. 3) on Wednesday began promoting early access to its holiday sales on Walmart.com, offering shoppers deals on everything from toys to kitchen gadgets to electronics. In announcing its holiday promotions, Walmart appeared to take a swipe at Amazon by announcing that it is “offering more than 2 million items for free two-day shipping without a membership fee on orders over $35.”
- QVC Group (No. 7) emailed shoppers late Tuesday, with “Give the gift everyone will be talking about” in its subject line and offering a one-day-only special of three holiday gifts for under $30.
- The Home Depot Inc. (No. 8) on Wednesday began promoting Black Friday deals on its website, offering shoppers up to 40% off appliances and promoting deals that are limited either to its bricks-and-mortar stores or its website.
- Kohl’s Corp. (No. 18) on Wednesday ran a one-day only Black Friday promotion online and in stores, with deals on apparel, electronics and home accessories. In an email to customers and on its website, Kohl’s informed shoppers that its Black Friday deals will start online on Monday, Nov. 20, ahead of the traditional Black Friday shopping holiday, which is on Nov. 24 this year.
- Consumer electronics online retailer Newegg Inc. (No. 21) on Wednesday announced its “Black November” promotion for the ninth consecutive year, offering deals on products ranging from office furniture to laptop computers.
- Online marketplace eBay Inc. announced it is offering daily deals of up to 60% off certain holiday gifts, adding free shipping on those products as a sweetener. In announcing the move Wednesday, eBay cited its own research that shows 45% of shoppers in the U.S. start their holiday shopping “well before Black Friday.”
- Outdoor apparel and gear retailer Left Lane Sports on Wednesday began offering online deals through a holiday gift shop section on its website, notifying shoppers that the sale ends Dec. 22.
Lieb says Amazon and other retail giants may be kicking off the holiday promotional season now, but that doesn’t mean smaller online retailers should necessarily follow, especially if it comes at the expense of their profit margins.
“[Smaller retailers] can’t win by slashing prices, but they can provide value in other ways, be it a feel-good purchase or extra-attentive customer service,” she says. “David can’t become Goliath overnight, but there are differentiators that consumers will find attractive. I would advise smaller retailers to focus on their size—to adopt messaging around supporting a local business, buying local, investing in handcrafted or at least not made-in-China, gifts.”