Black Friday is early again this year, and maybe forever

Shoppers are already out and about. But an unreliable supply chain and lingering pandemic have retailers and their customers changing their behavior.

This won't be much of a Black Friday preview considering how many retailers and their customers already have a jump on the traditional launch of the shopping season this year.

In 2020 it was Amazon that helped push up the holiday start, with an October Prime Day that had been delayed by the pandemic. Yet this year is shaping up much the same way.

"The absence of Prime Day this year, which moved back to being a mid-year event, muted the year-over-year noise about the start of promotion season," Brendan Witcher, Forrester Research principal analyst of digital business strategy, said by email. "But as we expected, retailers launched the promotional calendar early again this year."

The good news is that, despite ongoing concerns about inflation and the pandemic, shoppers appear to be ready to celebrate — and spend. Halloween served as a harbinger of things to come, as consumers remained cautious but, unlike last year, gathered together and bought more.

Starting early and lasting longer means the event itself, on its traditional days, is waning somewhat. For example, Adobe expects Cyber Week (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) to drive $36 billion in online spending. That's 17% of the holiday season, but just 5% growth from last year compared to the forecast for 10% growth in holiday spending overall, Adobe said.

Halloween also served as a gateway to the holidays, as retailers swiftly replaced orange and black with red and green. The competition plus worries about adequate inventory have propelled Walmart, Target, Kohl's, Saks, Neiman Marcus and others to start their campaigns.