The compressed shopping season has brands trumpeting early discounts. What’s in a name? The thing we call a Black Friday deal on any other day would still be a bargain. And so a host of retailers are taking advantage of the declining relevance of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that was once a shopping bonanza, to advertise Black Friday-level discounts this week, 11 days ahead of schedule.
On Monday, Home Depot emailed its customers with a “Sneak Peek” of “Black Friday Savings,” that consumers could only use online. Pottery Barn and Backcountry, a sportswear retailer, sent out similar missives. J. Crew appeared to purposefully mix up its Mondays by blasting subscribers with an emailed subject line that read, “Oops! We started Cyber Monday two weeks early,” that offered customers early access to the struggling clothier’s sales.
The trend away from Black Friday is nothing new as the introduction of ecommerce years ago paved the way for other shopping holidays, like Cyber Monday, which became Cyber Week. Now retailers, poised for a compressed holiday selling season that includes one fewer weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, are trucking out the “Black Friday” language as early as they can. According to a recent Women’s Wear Daily report that cited a PwC survey, only 35 percent of consumers say they will shop on Black Friday, Nov. 29, this year—down from nearly 39 percent four years ago. Online coupon site CouponBirds recently found in a survey that one-third of shoppers don’t think that Black Friday or Cyber Monday have the best deal offers.
“It does seem like companies are just rolling out promotions earlier so they can capture sales and not lose anyone who may wait for Thanksgiving and then forget to actually shop,” says Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester Research.
Yet using “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” still resonates, hence this week’s retailer email flood. Even direct-to-consumer brands, which historically have shied away from discounts, are testing out promotions. Apparel company Everlane offered its customers $20 off of merchandise this week; furniture brand Article also advertised a sale. Such e-commerce offerings come in the wake of the first “DTC Friday,” the new d-to-c brand-focused shopping day from Tim Armstrong’s DTX Company. Last week, Armstrong announced a campaign that boasted a charity component to promote the wares of 70 d-to-c brands. Companies such as kidswear label Rockets of Awesome and bedding brand Buffy are participating in promotions, which will run until Nov. 28, according to a DTX spokeswoman. Other brands, such as Burrow, are partnering with the effort just by listing their names on the DTC Friday site, but are not offering discounts.
Discounts or not, however, Kodali notes that if brands want to see a lift in sales, they’ll need to deliver “something above and beyond.”