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Black Friday Losing Its Cachet As Pre-Holiday Sales Spread

The ritual and anticipation of Black Friday — the gathering of ad-laden newspapers on Thanksgiving morning to scour the circulars for the next day’s best deals — are long gone.

In their place are a month-long series of pre-holiday sales events and early-release doorbuster circulars that may be dissipating the impact of the day after Thanksgiving.

What’s more, research by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) suggests that the early promotional moves by retailers and vendors are proving ineffective, as more shoppers are putting off their purchases until December.

“Black Friday has become a victim of its own success,” observed Shawn DuBravac, CTA’s chief economist and senior research director. “Retailers expanded it beyond a day to a week and the entire month,” as did Target with its new “Ten Days of Deals” Thanksgiving week promotion, he said.

According to the trade group’s “22nd Annual CE Holiday Purchase Patterns Study,” presented by Du-Bravac last week at CTA’s CES Unveiled event in New York, the percentage of shoppers who plan to begin buying gifts in November has remained static for the past three years at 38 percent, while the percentage of those who don’t expect to start shopping until December has increased from 23 percent in 2014 to 29 percent this season.

And while November remains the most heavily shopped month, with 44 percent of those surveyed by CTA planning to hit the stores, the number has dropped from 49 percent last year while the percentage of December shoppers has grown from 34 percent in 2014 to 42 percent this season.

Why the lack of urgency? Some may be holding out until the last possible minute for what they expect will be the absolute lowest prices of the season. But most seem unfazed by the barrage of promotional offers, with only 16 percent believing that this year’s deals will be better than last year, and 12 percent expecting the offers to be less compelling.

As to where and how they will shop, traditional CE storefronts continue to lose ground to the online and mobile channels. According to CTA’s forecast, CE retailers will see only 1.9 percent sales growth this holiday season, compared to 5.5 percent last year. Online sales growth has also slowed, from 16 percent in 2014 to 13.9 percent this year.

The biggest beneficiary of the share shift: Mobile, which is going from a 25.2 percent gain last holiday to a 34.7 percent increase in sales volume this season, DuBravac said, for a total take of $12.9 billion, or 18.1 percent of online holiday sales.

And CE merchants take note: fully 57 percent of consumers buying tech this season will use a mobile device to help them shop.

Another notable holiday trend is the expansion of curbside pickup of online orders by multichannel merchants, made easier through mobile check-in, as seen this season at Target and Sears, DuBravac said.