If you live for Black Friday discounts, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) has a deal for you. Not content to offer just one day of rock-bottom pricing, the discount retail king is making Black Friday an extended weekend event stretching from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.
Wal-Mart 's website, with 250 million visits last year, is the second-most trafficked site behind Amazon during the holidays, though it still was dwarfed by the 903 million visits to its rival in 2013. Analysts at the NRF forecast an 8% to 11% increase in U.S. online holiday sales in November and December, and Wal-Mart is angling to capture as many of the sales as possible.
Retailers need to blunt the online channel's "always on" advantage. They have largely aimed to do that by pushing Christmas earlier and earlier into the calendar. While Sears Holdings (NASDAQOTH:SHLDQ) earned the distinction of pushing the envelope earliest last year by running ads before kids even went back to school, Wal-Mart was one of the first retailers to open on Thanksgiving Day itself.
That pressured other retailers to follow suit, and now Target, Macy's, and Best Buy all open their doors on the holiday evening. Sears' Kmart stores will open at 8 a.m.
Wal-Mart is amping up the holiday sales arms race once again by making Black Friday a five-day event, but it is also taking the fight directly to e-commerce.
ChannelAdvisor (NYSE:ECOM) refers to the five-day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday as the "Cyber Five," and uses the time frame to determine the impact Amazon, eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), Google, comparison shopping channels, and paid search engines have on e-commerce.
Amazon, of course, remains the leader, and last year saw a 35% year-over-year increase in same-store sales during the Cyber Five. eBay, meanwhile, was up 30% from 2012.
Those are strong numbers facing Wal-Mart, and show why it expanded its Black Friday sales and made every day of the five-day period a Christmas extravaganza.