Don’t Look Now, But Cyber Monday May Have Already Started

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The leaking of Black Friday ads began weeks ago, building anticipation among shoppers seeking the season’s best deals. In some ways, though, Black Friday and its online counterpart, Cyber Monday, have already arrived.

“Cyber Monday has begun, essentially,” says Thom Blischok, chief retail strategist for Booz & Co. “No question about it.”

Booz’s Holiday Retail Outlook report describes the way that consumers view Black Friday (and presumably, Cyber Monday) as increasingly “irrelevant” because of changing shopping habits—and because of the way stores are adapting to suit these changing habits. Shoppers “start looking earlier and buying later, and are moving online,” according to the report. “As a result, retailers are discounting even earlier, seeking to convert these early shoppers.”

In recent days, examples of deals on par with what one expects of Cyber Monday have begun popping up. Levi’s, for instance, hosted a sitewide 40% off flash sale on Wednesday from noon to 5 p.m. only. Fila and The Body Shop currently have 40% off sitewide sales (use coupon code 40FRIDAY or GINGER, respectively), while Land’s End offers 40% off one item through November 19. Banana Republic and Timberland, meanwhile, have 30% off sitewide specials (use BRSAVE30 and GOBBLE12, respectively).

(MORE: Time It Right: A Sweet Spot Emerges for Snagging the Best Holiday Gift Deals)

As Thanksgiving and the actual Black Friday and Cyber Monday get closer, consumers can anticipate the appearance of more and more of these offers meant to tempt early shoppers. While it’s a mystery exactly what will pop up, some major retailers have gone public with plans to start the Black-Cyber week sales early: Sears and Staples have separately announced that certain “doorbuster” type sales will be available starting on Sunday, November 18. A couple of weekends ago, meanwhile, Kohl’s launched a 30% off special for all customers holding store-affiliated credit cards, with a bonus $10 credit for every $50 spent. “That probably rivals what Kohl’s will have for Black Friday,” says Michael Brim, founder of Black Friday specialty site BFAds.net.

What’s emerging is the idea that, as a dealnews post noted, it’s a “misconception that you should shop in-store on Black Friday and wait until Cyber Monday for online deals; deals during the entire season are readily available online.”

Many shoppers seem to know this is how things work now, or perhaps they just like holiday shopping so much that they can’t wait to get started. A National Retail Federation survey reveals that 41% of consumers begin holiday shopping before Halloween.

So … is it a good idea to buy early? Doing so could spell trouble, one retail expert tells the Orlando Sentinel:

Early birds face a major danger, warned Megan Donadio, a Kurt Salmon retail analyst. If people have more time to buy, chances are good they might overspend.

“If you start spending in October, it’s very easy to get to December and forget about the purchases you made,” she said.

(MORE: Holiday Shoppers Can Look Forward to an Extra Bloated Black Friday)

That’s not the only reason to hold off on biting when tempting pre-season deals appear. No matter how low prices seem, it’s still reasonable to assume that the discounts will be even better during the peak shopping days head. “There will be more ‘best of season’ deals on Cyber Monday than any other day this holiday season,” predicts Brad Wilson, of BradsDeals.com. “It has been my busiest shopping day personally the past few years, which is completely a function of the deals that were available.”

BFAds.net’s Brim says that while stellar individual deals may trickle out in the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, “Pound for pound, what you’re seeing now doesn’t match up with what we’ll see on Black Friday.” Brim isn’t particularly impressed with the across-the-board 30% off and 40% off sales from apparel retailers. “This is something you see year-round,” he says. “They do it almost monthly.”

(MORE: The Hottest Section of the Department Store May Be Online)

Brim also advises shoppers not worry about missing out on the pre-Black Friday, pre-Cyber Monday offers. He assures that prices on actual Black Friday and actual Cyber Monday “won’t be worse. They might be the same, but they won’t be worse.”

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