Shoppers inside the Mall at Fairfield Commons during the holiday season. Holiday shopping is starting earlier every year. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Why stores are off to an early start with holiday deals

With six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than last year, retailers are starting early to attract shoppers to their deals.

On Friday, major retailers began releasing online their Thanksgiving and Black Friday ads, giving shoppers a glance at deals coming.

Nearly 40 percent of shoppers have already started buying holiday items, according to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation. Only 18 percent will wait until December to begin shopping.

Holiday shopping is crucial for a stable economy since about 30 percent of annual retail sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas, according to the National Retail Federation. U.S. consumers spend about $730 billion during the holiday season.

In past years, retailers set a time and customers waited outside for doors to open and shopping to begin, said Gordon Gough, president of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants. But with social media, the internet and e-commerce sales, the whole system of “Black Friday shopping” has changed, he said.

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“Once the Sunday after Thanksgiving is done, we’re already in December, so at that point you’ve just got a little over three weeks left,” said Riley Dugan, a marketing professor at the University of Dayton that studies retail-related trends. “Absolutely stores want to increase foot traffic early on to make sure they’re not struggling a little bit in that three and a half week period.”

Walmart began online-only “Early Deals Drop” last week. Kohl’s held a pre-Black Friday event on Friday, the first day of November. The department store was one of the first to release its holiday ad.

Costco is also starting its early holiday deals Nov. 7, running through Nov. 21 while supplies last, and Sam’s Club will host a one-day “biggest member event of the year” sale Nov. 9.

Marsha Bowen of Dayton said she started Christmas shopping for her three kids and three grandkids about two weeks ago. As she sees deals, she buys presents she knows they’d like, Bowen said. While there are good deals on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, she said she doesn’t think it’s always better to wait.

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“I think retailers are throwing out these deals to get people in sooner and start shopping sooner,” she said. “I definitely don’t want to go in a store on Thanksgiving Day.”

One of the major drivers for early holiday shopping is deals, Gough said. The chances of getting one of the hot toy items of the year also increases the earlier shoppers buy, he said.

Sarah Foulkes of Lebanon who was looking at ornaments at the Dayton Mall Friday said she has started shopping in August for the last several years.

“I just gradually buy as I go and as I see fit because most kids nowadays have everything they could possibly want, so you kind of have to have that opportunity of ‘oh they really like this,’ and get it in the moment,” she said.

The early sales are also a way to compete with e-commerce sales and convince procrastinators who may otherwise buy online to go to a brick-and-mortar store, Dugan said.

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“If people wait too long, they’re just going to order everything online. It’s much easier, more convenient for them to do that,” Dugan said.

That’s especially true over the last couple of years as shipping options from major retailers like Walmart and Target have dropped to next-day or two-day shipping to keep up with Amazon’s year-round shipping standard. Most of the stores also offer the shipping for free over the holidays.

The average consumer said they’d spend about $1,048, according to an annual federal survey of shoppers. That’s up 4 percent from last year’s $1,007.

“Consumers are in good financial shape and willing to spend a little more on gifts for the special people in their lives this holiday season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers are fully prepared to meet the needs of holiday shoppers looking for that perfect mix of sales, quality and selection.”

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