Black Friday deals increasingly available all of November, experts say

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Not long ago, Black Friday was an easily defined, 1-day extravaganza that officially launched the holiday shopping season. These days, Black Friday deals are more like a season of their own.

Black Friday deals aren’t limited to the day after Thanksgiving anymore. Retailers began to seize evening hours on Thanksgiving years ago and increasingly open stores even earlier on Thanksgiving Day or, in extreme cases, introduce Black Friday deals weeks before Thanksgiving.

For example, Kmart will open at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day and remain open for 42 consecutive hours. J.C. Penney and Toys R Us will open at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day in an attempt to gain an edge over competitors such as Macy’s, Kohl’s and Sears, all of which open at 6 p.m.

Other retailers and retail stores, such as Amazon, Office Depot and Walmart, have Black Friday sales that run through most of November, which begs the question: When should value-minded consumers slink away to the store (or go to the store’s website)?

Money-saving expert Melea Johnson of freebies2deals.com says consumers who wait to shop until the actual day after Thanksgiving might miss many so-called Black Friday deals that were made available before the holiday. “Since most stores offer similar pricing for Black Friday items, whoever starts first gets your money,” Johnson says. “For those really hoping to get the best Black Friday deals, consumers should plan on Black Wednesday instead.”

It’s more like Black November, in some cases. Amazon and Walmart began to offer daily Black Friday-style deals on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014. On Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, Sears will hold a 3-hour Black Friday sale on apparel, appliances, footwear and tools that takes an additional 5 percent to 15 percent off Black Friday prices, according to the retailer. We attempted to contact Sears so it could provide evidence that its discounts are comparable to what it offers on Black Friday, but a company spokesperson never responded. However, the independent retail experts whom we interviewed say no evidence exists to suggest that the pre-Black Friday discounts that Sears and other stores offer don’t match Black Friday pricing.

Deborah Fowler, who is the retail-management program director at Texas Tech University, says the limited amount of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2014 (just 27 shopping days, excluding Thanksgiving Day) means that retailers will offer discounts earlier to meet projected sales figures.

Widener University professor Ross Steinman, who is a consumer-behavior expert, believes that consumers no longer have to circle Black Friday on the calendar to find the best deals. An increase in 24-hour access to online shopping has overtaken the need to fight predawn crowds in department-store parking lots and, as a result, “Americans are witnessing the eventual extinction of Black Friday.”

“Consumers no longer need to deal with chaotic store crowds at 4 a.m. to get the sale of a lifetime,” Steinman says. “Lines have become shorter and registers more readily available as it becomes the norm for holiday sales to start earlier and last longer.”

– K. Carlson