Updated from 10:55 a.m. EST to provide more analysis in the sixth paragraph.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Consumers are looking for holiday shopping deals all season long not just on the more popular shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Given that many consumers already shop online on Thanksgiving, this year major retailers from Wal-Mart (WMT) to Macy's (M) are kicking off their Black Friday holiday promotions by opening on Thanksgiving night. That means that as more shoppers take to the stores on Thanksgiving eve, conversely the share of sales on Black Friday will go down, industry observers say. This year, retailers expect sales to rise 3.1% on Black Friday, mirroring their projections for last year's sales increase, according to the latest BDO USA survey.
Retailers also tempered expectations for sales on Cyber Monday, predicting that sales will grow by 3.7% compared to last year's 4.3% sales projection.
The survey adds fuel to the fire that Black Friday increasingly Cyber Monday, once the traditional start of holiday shopping, may not be as unique as they once were.
The survey polled 100 retail chief marketing officers during September and October.
The BDO findings coincide with a Nov. 12 report by Placed, a mobile ad intelligence firm, that says that retailers like Macy's, J.C. Penney (JCP) and Best Buy are well-positioned by being open on Thanksgiving while companies like Aeropostale (ARO), Ross Stores (ROST) and Apple (AAPL) are leaving money on the table by remaining closed.
Retailers' expectations for Thanksgiving weekend sales reflect the shifting character of Black Friday and Cyber Monday as more retailers plan to open stores earlier on Thanksgiving Day as well as the push for more sales online throughout the holiday season, the BDO survey's release said.
"Retailers understand that consumers are no longer limiting their shopping just to Black Friday and Cyber Monday," says Ted Vaughan, a partner with BDO's retail and consumer products practice. "Though they remain important shopping days, retailers feel less pressure to post major sales gains on these two days alone, and instead are focusing on offering a compelling experience for shoppers throughout the season."
Still, retailers are prioritizing in-store sales. Approximately 47% of CMOs plan to focus the majority of their promotions in-store, up 15% over last year.
Given the growing controversy over the so-called retail holiday creep, where retailers start their Christmas season promotions earlier and earlier each year, the BDO survey found that only 13% of retailers plan to begin their holiday promotions ahead of Black Friday. Half of the respondents said they planned to spread promotions evenly throughout the season.
Regardless of timing, consumers can expect to see a growing number of discounts this holiday season -- two-thirds of the respondents said they expect more deals this year.
Using social media to grab shoppers' attention is a growing area of marketing. While free shipping remains the top online sales trigger, many retailers are increasingly turning to social media to drive sales. This year, 20% of CMOs cite social media promotions as a top tactic, up 43% from last year and a doubling since 2009, the survey says.
Simultaneously, email promotions were cited by only 20% of respondents, down from 31% last year, given that email providers are increasingly filtering promotional emails out of users' primary inboxes, BDO says.
Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.