Holiday Shopping Starts Early Due to Coronavirus Pandemic to Avoid Seasonal Rush

In an effort to avoid the usual holiday rush, with its packed crowds and little space for social distancing, retailers are planning to offer major Black Friday deals as early as this month instead of waiting until Thanksgiving. The deals from giants like Walmart, Best Buy, and Target are also coming earlier in the fall to help them better compete with Amazon, which moved its Prime Day from July to October this year. Some are also reversing the tradition of starting "doorbuster" deals on Thanksgiving Day to avoid causes crowds and scenes of shoppers rushing through doors that have become annual staples.

Moving Black Friday deals earlier is nothing new, as retailers have been moving things earlier for years. The difference now is things are moving earlier due to the pandemic. The very early deals should help lessen the crowds in stores and could ease pressure on shipping warehouses. The memories of the early days of the pandemic, when Americans were buying things online more than ever before, are still fresh. If companies can get consumers to buy gifts early, they can avoid having to rush to get things out by Christmas Day. That's going to be necessary when retailers urge shoppers to use their websites instead of going in-store. "We’re preparing for a holiday season unlike any we’ve seen before," Target CEO Brian Cornell explained to the Associated Press.

The only way of doing things, where retailers created demand with limited deals and inspired stampedes, is giving way to "earlier, season-long discounts," James Zahn, senior editor for the Toy Insider, told the Washington Post. "We're in a health crisis, so retailers are having to rethink how they get products into families' hands." Indeed, Best Buy already unveiled a slate of deals that will go live on Oct. 13 and 14, reports The Verge. These are not only early Black Friday deals but also part of Best Buy's annual anti-Prime Day deals.

The slow economy is also putting increased pressure on retailers to make sure this season is not lost. During the pandemic, dozens of retailers filed for bankruptcy, and millions of Americans have lost jobs. “There are so many unknown variables this year,” Tyson Cornell of PwC explained to the Post. “By kicking off sales in October, [retailers] are hoping to spread consumer traffic and demand over the next few months, helping them maintain social distancing in stores, consistently move inventory and adjust their strategies based on early consumer demand."

Retailers are searching for some sliver of good news. People will not be spending much on experiences since many still cannot travel or eat out due to coronavirus restrictions. That means some families could have more to spend at retailers, and they will be picky. "Retailers, particularly department stores and specialty clothing chains, need to get it right in terms of inventory and customer traffic," Ken Perkins, Retail Metrics president, told the AP. "They’re fighting for their lives."