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Black Friday Ain’t What It Used to Be: 2013 a “Transitional Year” for Retailers and Shoppers

Aaron Task
Editor in Chief
Daily Ticker
Black Friday Ain’t What It Used to Be: 2013 a “Transitional Year” for Retailers and Shoppers

New Yorkers of certain age might remember Crazy Eddie’s annual "Christmas Sale…in August."

We’re not there quite yet but national retailers are, more than ever, trying to get the holiday shopping season started sooner.

This Friday, a full week before Black Friday, Best Buy (BBY) is launching its “holiday price guarantee,” offering shoppers a refund or price match for any item found at a lower price at a “major competitor.” Best Buy’s offer is good until Dec. 24, excluding the period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.

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Best Buy is saying there’s still something “special” about Thanksgiving weekend but the takeaway here is that “Black Friday” ain’t what it used to be, as I discuss in the accompanying video with my colleagues Rick Newman and Jeff Macke.

With many chains opening on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday being moved up a week earlier “it’s a transitional year” for retailers, Newman says. “Black Friday had a great decade, it’s time for something else.”

As Macke notes, Black Friday is a fairly recent phenomenon – prior to the mid-2000s, the Saturday before Christmas was traditionally the biggest day for retailers. The holiday season is moving “earlier and earlier” due to the pressure of the Internet and price discovery,” he says.

And it’s not just the pressure from industry titan Amazon.com (AMZN). 'Brick and mortar’ retailers are trying to become more relevant online, Macke adds. “You have Walmart.com (WMT) and Sears (SHLD) is all about becoming a dot.com. A website is open 24/7, 365.”

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The other factor underlying this, of course, is the limp state of the U.S. economy, which is forcing retailers to offer deeper discounts, in order to lure wary consumers.

To that point, Newman notes that most of the stores opening on Thanksgiving Day -- including Kmart, Walmart, Target (TGT) and Best Buy – tend to be value players vs. higher-end retailers like Nordstrom’s (JWN) or Tiffany’s (TIF).

“Nordstrom customers can stay home” on Thanksgiving, he notes. “Sears customers are the ones who’ll be lining up. The value chains cannot give up that extra dollar" -- assuming they can get cash-strapped consumers to open their wallets, of course.

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Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker and Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at altask@yahoo.com