Is Black Friday becoming irrelevant?

More retailers are opening doors on Thanksgiving, pushing the next day's shopping event into 'unplanned obsolescence,' an expert says.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 5, 2013 1:36PM

Shoppers walk around the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota on Feb. 25, 2012 (© Ariana Lindquist/Bloomberg via Getty Images)By Katie Little, CNBC

With more retailers shifting the start of their big holiday pushes to Thanksgiving, it prompts the question of whether Black Friday even exists in the traditional sense.

Macy's (M), J.C. Penney (JCP) and Kohl's (KSS) are the latest retailers to hop on the Thanksgiving bandwagon to stay competitive in a increasingly promotional retail landscape. E-commerce deals are starting earlier, too, with Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) kicking off its online promotions Friday, a month earlier than usual.

Black Friday, which in the past has kicked off the holiday shopping season, got its name for being the day retailers hope will turn them from unprofitable (in the red) to profitable (in the black).

"Black Friday has reached unplanned obsolescence, and [on] Black Saturday and Sunday the stores get more and more deserted," said Burt P. Flickinger, managing director at SRG Insight, a retail consulting firm. "By moving sales to Thursday, Black Friday loses its retail relevance."

The creep from Friday to Thursday began in 2010, when Sears Holdings (SHLD) opened on Thanksgiving. Wal-Mart moved Black Friday to the holiday in 2011, and Target (TGT) followed last year.

As this trend amplifies, Black Friday is quickly becoming "a relic of years gone by," said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors.The transition also pressures retailers to have stores open and generating sales in an increasingly competitive market, he added.

"That's why I think you're going to see more retailers announce they'll be open," Sozzi said. "You have to capture the traffic in the mall because you don't know when it will return. It's a cascading effect."

Cyber Monday -- increasingly popular with time-pressed, crowd-wary shoppers -- is also squeezing Black Friday. For the first time, an American Express survey found that more shoppers plan to participate in the former than the latter.

Bill Martin, founder and executive vice president of ShopperTrak, said that the "lines are beginning to blur" for the holiday season.

"We're seeing more and more promotions earlier in November out of fear of the consumer's running out of money," he said. "They're trying to get to that wallet as soon as possible."

Although Thanksgiving is growing in importance and now starts many retailers' major pushes, Martin stressed that Black Friday still tops other days in terms of sales. ShopperTrak forecasts that Black Friday will be the busiest shopping day this year for sales and traffic for the 10th straight year.

Expect coal this season

Surveys and forecasts indicate that this season could be particularly Scrooge-like for retailers.

In a recent report, Morgan Stanley analysts forecast the weakest holiday sales and the most promotional season since 2008.

Nearly 80 percent of shoppers plan to spend less overall, a recent survey from the National Retail Federation found. The average shopper plans to spend about $737 on holiday items, 2 percent less than the average last year, it found. Overall, the trade group expects sales to rise marginally, by 3.9 percent.

Retailers face several challenges this season, including slumping consumer confidence; a low employment participation rate; and the shortest holiday calendar since 2002, with one less weekend.

Citigroup predicts consumers will remain C.H.E.A.P., or more interested in spending on cars, housing, e-commerce appliances and home-improvement projects than on apparel, electronics or home goods.

"We are predicting more holiday creep this year as retailers aggressively compete for a piece of a shrinking holiday sales pie," Citigroup analysts said in a report.

About 32 percent of retailers surveyed by the NRF intend to offer discounts earlier than last year because of the economy. Nearly half of marketers surveyed by Experian said they had launched campaigns before Halloween.

'Amateur hour?'

Why are people going along with Black Friday promotions bleeding into Thanksgiving?

"From our touch with consumers, we hear nothing but disdain about losing the holiday and from employees who complain about it," Martin said. "Consumers openly complain about it, but more and more consumers participate in it."

More than 35 million people turned up at stores on Thanksgiving last year, up 22 percent from 2011 and 58 percent from 2010.

Participants include customers like Jonathan Krackehl of Fairfield County, Conn., who moved his Thanksgiving dinner a bit earlier to accommodate the new sales schedule but still says he hates the change.

"I've gotten less enthused about it because of the hours coming earlier," he said. The shift has caused the crowd to change from experienced discount-seekers to "almost amateur" hour, he added.

More from CNBC

Nov 5, 2013 2:45PM
I'm not shopping anywhere for Christmas that makes their employees work on Thanksgiving.
Nov 5, 2013 2:54PM
I shopped on black friday once during my lifetime and will never so it again.  there is no discount in the world worth all that aggravation.
Nov 5, 2013 2:17PM

And in the past employers didn't make their employees work on holidays because they'd be considered 'Scrooges' by the public. So now it appears even Charles Dickens is obsolete...

Nov 5, 2013 2:29PM
I don't go shopping on Black Friday or Thanksgiving Day. Corporations are doing what the public wants. if people want to go shopping at 10PM on Thanksgiving Evening then let them. I'll stay in my nice warm home and order online
Nov 5, 2013 3:43PM
Thanksgiving, What I believe, is a wonderful American original. Why we are letting it be something disgusting in the name of consumerism to get few deals is beyond me. What does it tell about us ? Are we so desperate in America that we have to save few bucks in that very day. Can this shopping wait for a day or two ? If I understand economics correct, the retailers will wait if nobody shows up that day. Then why are we in such a frenzy?
Nov 5, 2013 3:12PM

5 and 10 years ago, Black Friday used to be fun. Getting up earlier than when a person would go to work or school, cruising around on deserted roads to get in a line that wasn't hundreds of people long. I despise Black Friday now.

Nov 5, 2013 3:14PM

It's a special time to just spend with loved ones...not shopping...the meaning of xmas has certainly become lost : (  There are plenty od days to shop before or after Thanksgiving...savings and sales are always there.


Nov 5, 2013 2:39PM
baa hum bug. boycott all these bastards until american workers wages come in line with the cost of living. all these ceo's are clueless. they think huge holiday sales and marketing mind tricks will bring in money that the average american worker no longer has to spend if they want to keep the roof over their heads.
Nov 5, 2013 2:13PM
I think black friday diapered long time ago, I have not shopped on black friday in years just because i was able to find better deals on the internet on regular days.
Nov 5, 2013 4:02PM

I didn't shop at any stores at all last year that were open on Thanksgiving.  If every store is going to be open, I guess I will just have to shop at small local stores that will be open.  I usually spend a lot of money for Christmas, but that may have just died.


Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate living in America.  Shame, shame on you that go shopping on that wonderful day.

Nov 5, 2013 3:42PM
I will not shop this year at any store that started Christmas commercials before Halloween, (running them now, you are on my **** list as well) or any store that is open on Thanksgiving.
Nov 5, 2013 3:22PM
Consumers turn up because you can't get the prices you get at Black Friday events.  Everyone I know hates the fact retailers have moved the events to Thanks Giving.
Nov 5, 2013 4:14PM
Someone SMART would move their promotion to WEDNESDAY this year so that consumers can celebrate their holiday with family, as could their employees. Let's see if anyone out there in retail land is SMART enough to make the move.
Nov 5, 2013 2:32PM
Everyday should be like black Friday then we should not have to worry about the economies. Start lowering your prices.
Nov 5, 2013 2:21PM
RIP.   Now I can no longer look forward to standing out in the cold in the northeast with hundreds of other fools waiting for Staples to open so we can get a free thumb drives. 
Nov 5, 2013 5:02PM
Forget that... no employee should be working Thanksgiving when they don't want to. I know some do, but most do not. I sure as heck wont be going shopping on Thu. And now those stores are on my black list for the rest of my shopping. Respect the holidays, and respect the employees and their families!
Nov 5, 2013 2:15PM
What do you expect when there already selling Xmas Goods 1 month back!!!
Nov 5, 2013 4:32PM

Black Friday deals, which are few, are also limited, especially with the electronics. I dislike crowds and Black Friday is all about crowds and rushing for the best deal in a time limit.

I'd rather take my time and enjoy the experience, not get run over by the masses!!

Nov 5, 2013 4:05PM

People aren't even doing Christmas shopping on those days anymore.  The people I know are buying for themselves, not for others.

Nov 5, 2013 3:59PM
Went shopping on Black Friday last year after not participating for awhile.  Not enough sales staff to assist me with the "specials" in a well-known store's shoe department, forcing me to wait a long time to try on sizes and then waited in another line to have them rung up.  It was NOT worth the money I saved on the boots and other items I eventually bought.
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