Good news, shoppers. You no longer have to brave the shoving hordes the day after Thanksgiving to grab amazing deals. The Christmas buying season is already here.
Retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target and Best Buy launched their big Black Friday marketing campaigns the minute Halloween came to a close. In other words, no need to set your alarm for 5 a.m. to score a place in line for that heavily discounted big-screen TV.
"It isn't Black Friday. It isn't even Black Friday weekend or Black Friday week anymore," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, which analyzes retail sales. "This year it's the whole month. It's going to be Black November."
Shades of gray
For several years now, analysts have," referring to the day's diminished importance to retailers' annual sales. There's an easy explanation for that: Retailers are offering "door-buster" discounts starting November 1. They even open their doors on Thanksgiving Day.
Consumers are apparently OK with the early start to the shopping season. A Nielsen survey last month found that a quarter of US consumers began holiday shopping in September. By Halloween, the amount had grown to nearly 60 percent.
Online deals also play a key role in Black Friday's fading importance. Two-thirds of US consumers now plan to do some of their holiday shopping online, up 12 percent from 2014, according to NPD. Just as important, the discounts you find now are likely as good as the ones you'll spot on Black Friday, so there's no need to wait.
"Consumers don't need to seek the deals out on Black Friday the way they did during past holiday seasons," Cohen said. "The deals come to them early and often."
Black Friday fatigue
Still, some shoppers are saying enough is enough.
Consumers last year lashed out against Macy's, Walmart, Target and Sears for opening on Thanksgiving Day, which always falls on a Thursday. They launched social-media campaigns with hashtags like BoycottBlackThursday and Change.org petitions titled "Just say no to Black Thursday."
Last month Recreational Equipment Inc., better known as REI, pushed Black Friday backlash to an extreme, saying it will close all of its stores that day and instead give workers the day off with pay. It also launched the #OptOutside social-media campaign, encouraging consumers to share photos of their outdoor adventures.
That's great news for the staff of these companies, who may have felt the Grinch was stealing Thanksgiving. But it also makes sense for retailers, which have to weigh the cost of paying overtime wages against the sales they might actually pull in.
Last year the National Retail Federation found that only 55 percent of holiday shoppers bought anything on Thanksgiving weekend, down 5 percent from the year before. They also spent less: $233.3 million in 2014 versus $248.6 million in 2013. The NRF attributed the trend to earlier promotions and more online shopping.
Or, Cohen said, it could just be that people "don't feel like coming home black and blue and with empty pockets."