This week, Americans prepare to sit down to a table loaded with turkey and all the fixings, and retailers prepare for their biggest sales event of the year.
But as brick-and-mortar stores continue to struggle against headwinds caused by the rise of ecommerce sites such as Amazon, many analysts have noted the phenomenon of "Black Friday creep."
Now retailers looking to boost their online sales are ramping up their own post-Thanksgiving efforts, starting their made-up shopping holiday sooner as well. And Walmart (WMT) is readying itself to lead the charge.
Will this be holiday bonus for the company's investors?
Once upon a time, on the morning after Thanksgiving, stores would open at their regular times to offer deep discounts. However, as the retail landscape became more competitive and as Black Friday became a holiday poised to eclipse Thanksgiving itself, Black Friday opening hours started earlier, with some stores opening at midnight on Thanksgiving night.
Now Black Friday has encroached on Thanksgiving itself, with some retailers, including Macy's, saying that they will be open on the Thanksgiving holiday itself. Ecommerce, with its 24/7 availability, has the clear advantage when it comes to profit-making hours.
Ecommerce has its own shopping holiday, the Monday following Thanksgiving called Cyber Monday. The event was created in 2005 by the National Retail Federation to encourage consumers to shop online when they went back to work following the Thanksgiving break and had access to office high-speed Internet.
Of course, now just about everyone in the U.S. has access to high-speed Internet at all times, so the day has just become another way for ecommerce companies to attract customers.
And because consumers don't need to wait to go back to the office to shop online, Cyber Monday is also been starting earlier.
Last year, Walmart started its online Cyber Monday offerings on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. But this year, it plans to kick off the sales event on Friday, and the company will offer additional deals online on Thanksgiving Day.
Walmart has been aggressively ramping up its online presence, spending millions of dollars collected mostly from shuttering under-performing brick-and-mortar locations on high-tech fulfillment warehouses and new delivery vehicles.
And these efforts are starting to pay off for the company and its investors.
Last week, Walmart reported that third-quarter online sales grew 20.6%, versus 11.8% growth a year earlier. Walmart's online store offers more than 23 million products online, nearly triple last year's Internet inventory.
Analysts at ComScore predict that Cyber Monday sales across the retail industry will balloon to $3.5 billion, versus $3.12 billion last year.
And for the entire holiday shopping season, analysts forecast a 19% rise in online sales, to $81 billion.
By increasing its Cyber Monday sales hours, Walmart should exponentially increase its sales this holiday season. That will continue to play out well for investors in the retailer.
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