If you're planning to brave the early-morning crowds of fanatical shoppers the day after Thanksgiving this year, I've got news for you: They might not exist much longer. In fact, I'd go so far as to say Black Friday simply doesn't matter anymore.
After all, Nielsen's annual Holiday Spending Forecast estimates only 13% of all holiday shoppers in 2013 plan to hit physical stores next Friday. For those of you keeping track, that marks Black Friday's fourth consecutive annual decline, and a nearly 24% decrease from last year, when just 17% of all shoppers ventured into their favorite brick-and-mortar locations.
Why Black Friday is fading
To be sure, some of the blame lies with those very retailers; a higher number of them than ever before have confirmed that they will open on (or earlier on) Thanksgiving Day this year in increasingly aggressive bids to boost foot traffic.
Early last week, for example, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) once again drew the ire of employees and shoppers alike by announcing it will open at 6 p.m. on Turkey Day, or two hours earlier than last year, and four hours before its 10 p.m. opening in 2011.
Worse yet, almost three weeks ago Sears Holdings' (NASDAQ:SHLD) Kmart spurred boycotts after announcing it will be letting customers in at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and then will subsequently remain open for 41 hours straight. And while Sears itself is set to open at 8 p.m. next Thursday, last night, the 127-year-old chain kicked off a week-long Black Friday "pre-sale" for members of its free Shop Your Way Rewards program.
Here's who wins
If there's still any doubt surrounding the increasing obsolescence of Black Friday, look no further than Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), which just announced plans to release deals every 10 minutes for an entire week starting Sunday, Nov. 24.
Ironically, the online retail behemoth gave its creation the oxymoronic name "Black Friday Deals Week."
At the same time, however, Amazon.com arguably has the most to gain by marginalizing Black Friday. Remember, last year's Cyber Monday sales grew by 26% over 2011, and Nielsen also estimates nearly half of all shoppers, or 46%, plan to shop online during Cyber Monday this year. By comparison, just 30% of all consumers took to the Web on Cyber Monday in 2012.
And can you blame them? Amazon has made no secret of its preference for increasing enterprise value through top-line growth at the expense of margins. As a result, and given its low-overhead business and laser focus on improving operational efficiency, Amazon has been able to consistently undercut the prices required for its brick-and-mortar competitors to stay afloat.
In turn, while other retailers fall all over themselves to open early for a larger slice of the pie, consumers continue to flock online, anyway.
In the end, that's why Black Friday is quickly falling by the wayside, and why I'm convinced it's only a matter of time until the shopping term bears no real significance.
Fool contributor Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.