As supply chain worries have consumers shopping earlier for the holidays, retailers including Best Buy are planning early sales like last year.
Many retail analysts are predicting that popular items might sell out by next month because of supply chain bottlenecks that have national retailers like Target chartering their own cargo ships and finding other creative solutions.
"We've been navigating this for almost 20 months," said Best Buy CEO Corie Barry, who was on the "Today" show on Thursday morning to talk about the shipping crisis causing retailers to start prepping for the holidays early. "Consumer electronics was one of the first categories to really pop. … And so our teams have really been working hard with our vendor partners through this whole time to bring in product. What that means is we have been planning way ahead of time for the holiday."
As it hinted not too subtlety for customers to "start your shopping now," Best Buy announced this week that its first holiday promotions will begin next week. The electronics retailer also said the traditional larger Black Friday sale will begin Nov. 19 instead of the day after Thanksgiving.
Kohl's said Friday it also will start its holiday sales next week.
Best Buy, Target and Walmart will be closed on Thanksgiving, as sales and Black Friday weekend plans are designed partly to minimize crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.
The big retailers will spread the holiday sales over the next few months, which is in line with last year's early rollout of sales by many national retailers. This week, Target's Deal Days kicked off the early holiday season with sales on headphones, TVs, clothes and more.
The Minneapolis-based retailer also announced this week one of its holiday promotions available beginning early December: a limited-edition design partnership with Lego Group that features brightly colored clothing, home goods products and more.
Ridgedale Center, which will be closed Thanksgiving, has started to see an uptick in sales that managers attribute to early holiday shopping.
"While there aren't any holiday displays up yet, I imagine they too will be earlier this year," said the Minnetonka mall's senior general manager, Joan Suko.
The Mall of America, which also will close again this year on Thanksgiving, announced it has extended "the traditional Black Friday experience" with themes to span eight days beginning the Monday before Thanksgiving.
While early shopping isn't uncommon, this year hitting the stores or online markets sooner rather than later is more crucial due to global supply chain issues that have caused delays in sending goods and raised concerns about keeping shelves stocked.
Target is one of several major retailers that have begun to move their shipping containers off cargo ships at night to try to help alleviate congestion at the country's busiest ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif.
Target said its latest move is moving about half its containers from ships at night. The off-hour movement will increase by 10% more over the next 90 days, the company said.
Other retailers such as Walmart and the Home Depot have also committed to move cargo during night hours as the industry prepares for the busy holiday shopping season. On Wednesday, Target CEO Brian Cornell participated in a virtual White House meeting with other business leaders as part of the Biden administration's Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force.
Numerous stores have tried to stock up on inventory early to be able to meet consumer demand with holiday sales forecast to increase 7 to 9%, according to Deloitte.
Black Friday this year will likely be a more subdued event with smaller crowds than it was before the pandemic. However, it should be busier than it was last year when many consumers still weren't shopping as much in person because of concerns about COVID-19, said Chris Walton, a former Target executive and the co-founder of retail industry blog and podcast Omni Talk.
"People are still wanting to get out, and for many Black Friday is a social experience as much as it is an opportunity to buy things at a discount … and I think people are craving to do those types of things out in the world as much as they can," Walton said.
But consumers should be prepared for less discounting of products, he said.
Walton pointed to Target in September announcing a holiday price match guarantee, which is in place earlier than it ever has been. The guarantee allows customers to request a price adjustment to items if the retailer lowers the price later in the season.
Best Buy will offer a similar Black Friday price guarantee starting next week.
Holiday shopping tips
The Better Business Bureau has come up with a list of suggestions to help consumers navigate this unusual shopping season:
- Know what products stores might run out of including those affected by the microchip shortage.
- Start shopping earlier than usual.
- When you find a good deal, don't wait to buy.
- Budget your holiday shopping without expecting sales.
- Have a backup plan.
- Watch out for scams.