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 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."
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.
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
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...
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.
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.
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.
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!!
People aren't even doing Christmas shopping on those days anymore. The people I know are buying for themselves, not for others.
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
The apparel chain takes a hard hit after blaming the weather for its quarterly sales decline. But cold temperatures don't explain the drop in full-year sales as well.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.
Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.
Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.