Last year, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) extended Black Friday for a full five days in an attempt to create a Black Friday Week. This year, it wanted to get a jump on the competition by starting so-called Cyber Monday sales at 8 p.m. on Sunday.
But in the push to make it all Christmas shopping all the time, Wal-Mart actually got a late start. Toy's R Us launched its online specials at 8 a.m. Sunday while Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) trumped them all by launching its Cyber Monday sales on Saturday!
The race to outdo the competition is becoming an all-consuming beast, but in their rush to one-up rivals, all retail is doing is ensuring that traditional milestones of the holidays lose all meaning.
Any excuse for a sale
While Black Friday has long been considered the typical start of the holiday shopping frenzy -- and Snopes says one of the earliest uses of the terms came from disgruntled Philadelphia traffic cops bemoaning all the cars that created monstrous jams in the city -- it was also an organic development as consumers used the long holiday weekend to begin their Christmas shopping. Retailers bit off that by offering some of their best deals of the season.
Cyber Monday, on the other hand, was totally made up. It was a fiction created by the National Retail Federation to promote online shopping. There never really was a day that saw more sales made online than at any other time of the year, but its Shop.org division sought to keep the sales momentum going that had begun the Friday before. The term was coined a decade ago.
But that doesn't mean it didn't morph into something real. According to market research firm comScore, Cyber Monday sales surged 17% in 2014 to hit more than $2 billion, making it the biggest online sales day of the year. In fact, it is the single biggest sales day of the year. Black Friday, the previous reigning champ of Christmas consumerism, recorded "only" $1.5 billion in sales last year, making Cyber Monday the only day to exceed $2 billion in sales.
Not bad for a made-up event.
Jingling all the way to the bank
The entire five-day period between Thanksgiving Day and the following Monday was a pretty impressive time last year for online retailers, what the folks at ChannelAdvisors have dubbed the Cyber Five. Almost $6.6 billion in sales were made during that time frame, but the weakest day of the bunch was Sunday, when less than $1 billion in goods were sold.
That is a void that Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are apparently trying to fill. By launching their online sales promotions the day before the semi-official start of the Internet surge, they see a chance to capture even more dollars from shoppers looking for deals.
There is a chance that retailers that open the doors of their bricks-and-mortar stores on Thanksgiving Day may soon face a backlash from employees and consumers who criticize their ruining what is viewed as a time for being with family. There is no similar criticism of pushing sales on Sunday, and certainly not online -- not even among those retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart that started offering their Black Friday sales online early on Thanksgiving Day.
ChannelAdvisor says Amazon's sales surged 31.2% on Thanksgiving compared to those made in 2014. And Fortune reported that Adobe, which monitors thousands of e-commerce sites, said sales across the retail sector hit half a billion dollars on Thursday, up 24% year over year.
By going the competition one better with its Cyber Monday deals, making them available on Saturday rather than Sunday let alone on Monday, Amazon.com is ensuring it retains its position as the top e-commerce site.
Maybe call it omni-Christmas retailing
Retail generally has come to understand the importance their websites hold to their overall success. In fact, many earnings reports lately show the online channel is the only channel reporting substantial year over year gains. But the need to offset expectations of a lackluster holiday sales season, of effectively making every day Christmas, has retailers running the risk of diluting the impact not only particular days will hold for them, but the season as well.
Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com. The Motley Fool recommends Adobe Systems. 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.