Black Friday isn't what people think it is, says Richard Feinberg, a Purdue University professor of consumer sciences and retailing.
Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving - has been promoted as the day that kicks off the holiday shopping season. It is named Black Friday because going back to the 1970s, sales from then through the end of the year have helped push retailers into profitability.
But retailers no longer wait for Thanksgiving to start promoting holiday sales, Feinberg says.
"The retail season has already begun," he says. "In promotions and advertising that begin as early as September, retailers are using key words and phrases that signal holiday shopping for consumers.
"Door buster sales aren't just for the Friday after Thanksgiving. They're for any Friday in October now."
Feinberg warns that a heavy and early holiday promotion environment can backfire on retailers. "As consumers are bombarded with more promotions, it is getting more difficult to get them excited about sales," he says. "At some point, their eyes glaze over, and it's nearly impossible to get their attention."
One reason for the early promotions this year is a late Thanksgiving, with just 25 shopping days between then and Christmas, compared to 32 last year. Despite that, Purdue research shows that the number of shopping days doesn't predict the amount of money that will be spent, Feinberg says.
Another reason is that retailers face an increasingly competitive environment, with more stores and more Internet shopping.
Meanwhile, the traditional Black Friday still has it fans. "Black Friday has become a giant sporting event for both retailers and consumers," Feinberg says. "Consumers love the competition and love getting home recounting their battle stories as they unwrap their new, large-screen TV."
While Black Friday is no longer the busiest shopping day of the year, it is in the top 10 and should not be ignored by any sized retailer, Feinberg says. Black Friday sales mean money in the bank and might even convince shoppers to come back in the following weeks.