Black Friday Is Dead

 | Nov 25, 2013 | 10:30 AM EST  | Comments
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Black Friday is officially dead. If you were in the mall this weekend, there was no mistaking that Black Friday has arrived a week early this year. Did you know you can make money by spending money at Macy's (M)? Teen stores had 50%-off "Early Black Friday" signs in the window, and the door-buster deals usually reserved for Turkey Day arrived on Sunday. (Blue Sunday at Best Buy (BBY), anyone?) While the promotional mudslinging will not disappoint in the apparel world, consumer electronics will be the real category to watch thanks to the Best Buy-Amazon (AMZN)-Wal-Mart (WMT) triangle.

We can thank lousy second and third quarters, as well as a shorter selling season this year, for the early promotional panic. We can also add an extra thanks to Wal-Mart this year. The retailer set the tone for Turkey deals with a 6 p.m. Thanksgiving opening and self-described "smoking hot" deals this year. Wal-Mart has lost its traffic mojo, and it has every intention of fighting back with early deals, price-matching, one-hour guarantees on hot items and increased television and tablet inventory.

Fighting words from Wal-Mart have been met with aggressive plans from Best Buy: The retailer talked about "table stakes" on its recent conference call, and warned that the company will protect sales at a cost to margins. Don't forget Amazon, either -- the company that continues to get a free pass on not earning any money. If you can't find what you want at Best Buy or Wal-Mart, Amazon is offering new deals every 10 minutes.

There is some good news for retail for the fourth quarter. The depressing tone of recent third-quarter conference calls has investors waiting for the Grinch to show up. That means retailers who gain share, even at the cost to gross margins, will get a free pass into 2014.

Welcome to "Deals Week." Goodbye, Black Friday.

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