Black Friday Advertising Onslaught Begins

Consumer Reports News: November 09, 2010 11:41 AM

"Christmas creep" is the term for the phenomenon where retailers try to start the holiday shopping season a little bit earlier each year.  According to a late-October survey by the National Retail Federation, 80% of online retailers expected to roll out holiday promos by the first week of November, with free shipping at the top of incentives. BestBuy launched its Christmas ad campaign on Nov.1, a full 10 days earlier than last year. Wal-Mart has started a price war with Target over toys, but according to AdAge Target isn't taking the bait, and is waiting until after turkey day to begin its advertising push.

"We expect this year’s holiday sales push to be quite aggressive," says Tod Marks, the shopping guru at Consumer Reports. "Maybe not at the level seen during the dark days of Christmas 2008 and 2009, but fairly close. From Sam’s Club to Macy’s, to Talbots, merchants are already aggressively dangling offers such as buy one get one free, across-the-store 25 percent discounts off on certain days, free shipping, hourly markdowns, and the like." 

But consumers may not be in such a rush. In a recent Consumer Reports survey, just 8% of shoppers said they planned to complete their holiday shopping prior to Thanksgiving, while 25% said they expected to finish shopping by the end of November. 

Will Black Friday bring good deals? 

Best Buy launched a "Shop Early Sale", but our findings showed that people might not save more than $10 for rushing in early. Sears, Macy's, and CVS  Black Friday circulars have been leaked on the web, and you can see a sampling of their deals. (Sears plans to open on Thanksgiving itself for the first time in its history.) Fat Wallet has a compilation of Black Friday deals from all over the internet.

Black Friday typically features plenty of the usual doorbusters of TVs, computers, MP3 players, digital cameras, and other goods sold as loss leaders to excite consumers and entice them to shop. But don’t waste your time waking up before dawn or heading out at midnight to score these types of bargains since stores typically have a very limited supply on hand. And they don’t generally give out rainchecks if someone beats you to the last one.

More and more retailers — and e-tailers — will be featuring great deals online -- daily, hourly, at lunch time, after dinner, and at other times — to keep the cash registers churning. Tod Marks offers this advice: "So before you hit the malls, do an internet price search comparison to see if a particular deal really is unbeatable. Chances are, you can do as good or better without leaving home."

-- Chris Fichera

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