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Holiday shopping is starting earlier than ever, experts say

While Black Friday is typically considered the kick-off for holiday shopping, 2020 will be a little different — experts say retailers are starting their sales early.

How early? For some, October.

“Black Friday was always about being first,” Michael Brown, a partner at consulting firm Kearney, told CNBC. “But Black Friday is not going to be the launch of the holiday season this year. … It will happen softly over the next month or so.”

Earlier this year, Amazon said it would push back its annual Prime Day sales event — typically held in July — in an effort to keep employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon announced last week that Prime Day 2020 is slated for Oct. 13 and 14.

Not long after the news broke, other retailers announced major sales during the same time frame, McClatchy News previously reported.

Target’s Deals Days event will take place on Oct. 13 and 14, featuring online and in-store deals on products in categories such as electronics, home, essentials, toys and beauty, the company said.

The retailer is also planning to offer “Black Friday pricing” for the entire month of November, not just the day after Thanksgiving, according to Target.

“This year, in a holiday season unlike any other, we know it’s more important than ever for our guests to get great deals in a convenient and safe shopping environment,” Christina Hennington, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at Target, said in a news release.

Similarly, Walmart’s Big Save event is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 and run through Oct. 15, featuring price cuts on items in electronics, home, toys and beauty, the retailer said.

Joel Bines, with consulting firm Alex Partners, said he believes early holiday deals are the new normal.

“This is here to stay,” Bines told The Associated Press. “The new holiday season is October through January.”

Kohl’s is already urging customers to “let the gifting start” on its website, setting up a “gift shop” with curated with holiday picks categorized by price point.

Last month, Home Depot said it would be stretching its Black Friday deals over two months — starting in early November, running through December — instead of offering them for only a day, CNN reported.

Changes due to coronavirus

In addition to earlier sales, some retailers are changing their operations due to COVID-19 concerns.

Lululemon is considering pop-up locations to keep shoppers safe and Bed, Bath and Beyond said it plans to extend its hours in an effort to prevent stores from getting too busy, CNBC reported.

Others are making it easier for shoppers to get what they need online.

Jewelry retailer Signet Jewelers — which owns the Zales and Kay Jewelers chains — told the AP it’s ramping up its warehouse to “ship five times as many packages” as 2019. Delivery group DHL advised retailers to avoid scheduling sales for December to prevent shipping delays, according to the outlet.

Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research, said retailers’ biggest challenge will be guessing what shoppers will want and how they’re planning to shop.

“Retailers don’t have any idea what’s coming their way with regards to the surge in e-commerce,” she told CNBC.

Ken Perkins, president of retail research firm Retail Metrics, echoed Weinswig’s sentiments.

“Shoppers are going to be very selective in what they buy,‴ Perkins told The AP. “Retailers, particularly department stores and specialty clothing chains, need to get it right in terms of inventory and customer traffic. They’re fighting for their lives.”

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Dawson covers goings-on across the central region, from breaking to bizarre. She has an MSt from the University of Cambridge and lives in Kansas City.

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