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Black Friday continues to struggle.

In past years, we’ve reported on the growing decline of this once-great monument to holiday shopping. Although historically, Black Friday marked the beginning of the Christmas spending season with deep sales and an intense retail frenzy, the rise of the Internet and a resurgent local business scene have begun to take bites out of its share of holiday dollars.

In 2014 alone, Black Friday sales slipped by 11% from the previous year. This year, according to research by rebate app maker Ibotta, that’s set to fall still further.

The magic that inspires shoppers to trample people at the doors of Walmart for cheap TV’s might be fading, with two-thirds of respondents to Ibotta’s survey saying that “Black Friday is not as big a deal as it used to be” and 57% of shoppers planning to wait until December to do most of their holiday shopping.

Particularly devastating for retailers desperate to get a foothold at the start of major holiday shopping, half of all shoppers expect their best deals to come later. They can stay home, feast on leftovers and watch the University of Michigan comfortably wallop Ohio State all day on Saturday afternoon. There’s no need to be up late or out on Saturday, these shoppers figure. There’ll be another sale.

That kind of thinking is deadly for businesses. They need shoppers up, out the door and above all else excited. As explained by Jon Weber, the head of global retail and consumer products with the consulting firm L.E.K., the key behind virtually all of Black Friday’s incessant gamesmanship is the knowledge that holiday spending is a zero sum game.

Holiday sales are forecast to reach up to $885.7 billion this year, but retailers know that clever advertising and great deals won’t meaningfully increase that number. Instead they hope to capture as much of that pie as possible, and to do that a store needs to stand out from the crowd.

“There’s a certain amount that the consumers are going to spend, and retailers are fighting for their share of that,” Weber said. “[They’re] being aggressive. When others are being aggressive you need to be aggressive. If you’re sitting on the sidelines you’re just not going to capture that share of spend.”

“That’s the sport of it for the consumer," Weber added. "The objective is to get the best deals you possibly can get and retailers are looking to win that game.”

It’s this race to the bottom, Weber said, that explains the diminishing stature of Black Friday in the holiday spending season. While the day itself remains incredibly important as the mental “kickoff” of the holiday season, as a shopping day it’s beginning to look increasingly worn out and irrelevant.

Consumers simply have too many options available to them. In addition to online shopping and its successful Cyber Monday drive there’s also been a recent resurgence of small businesses, spearheaded by campaigns from American Express and Small Business Saturday.

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Newer still, consumers have begun to discover the joys of shopping on their mobile devices. Just when retailers had started to get their feet underneath them for the Internet, Weber noted, mobile shopping has come along to break the business model once again with an even more “frictionless” environment.

Retailers are at their wits' end when traditional methods of branding and up-sales fall apart in the face of simply swiping left to the next deal. A shopper at a Best Buy might shrug and pick up some DVDs as long as he’s getting the TV. Online, he can cruise over to Amazon if it’s $5 cheaper or even buy a movie apiece from a string of different sites all as easily as opening a new tab.

And a consumer with the entire world at his feet is a choosy shopper indeed.

Does this mean an end to door-buster deals and Black Friday madness? Not so fast battle weary shopper. As the retail holiday’s creep into Thanksgiving has shown, the real lesson businesses have learned is to do absolutely anything they can to stand out from the crowd. If that means opening at 5:00 Thanksgiving Day and handing out a free drumstick to the first 50 shoppers through the door, you can bet someone is brining those turkeys right now.

“It’s all about whose going to push the envelope earlier because the consumer’s going to spend a certain fixed quantum of money,” Weber said. “You may say, ‘I don’t want to participate on Thanksgiving, but to the extent others are they’re going to capture that portion of spend. So your hand is being forced.”

Much more than just moving into Thanksgiving, retailers are being forced to get more creative in general. They have to game out when and how to reveal their sales, which promotions to run online and in store and when in the season to try and capture customer attention, whether it’s on Black Friday or significantly before... or even after.

So are Black Friday’s numbers down? Absolutely. They’ve been slipping for years, even though it remains a hugely important day for retailers and will probably remain so.

What it actually means, though, is that businesses are adjusting. Customers can shop more easily and more frequently than ever before. They’re shopping while stuck in traffic, while at work and down the block from their apartment. In an increasingly frictionless retail environment, the money has started to slide from Black Friday but just to other parts of the season.

The sales are still there, they’re just getting pulled earlier and later by businesses desperate to stand out.

What does that mean for your holiday shopping? Flexibility. Instead of needing to shop on Friday morning or even Thursday night, customers can now scout out deals days ahead of time. Others can wait into December, confident that even if they missed one big box’s door-buster, someone else is going to want their money just as badly.

It’s a buyer’s market for holiday gift giving. In a season where more than half of Ibotta’s surveyed consumers plan on cutting their spending, that’s pretty good news.