(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn)
Retailers normally kick off their Christmas promotions on Black Friday or Thanksgiving, but this year's shopping season has already arrived with Wal-Mart and Amazon offering online deals on thousands of items.
The shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is shorter than last year, and the consumers are still recovering from the recent the shutdown and debt-ceiling chaos. It seems retailers, which earn about 40 percent of their yearly revenue during the shopping season, do not want to take a chance this year.
Wal-Mart launched numerous online offers as early as Friday, the day Amazon also started a Black Friday deals store and electronics holiday gift guide and added to its discounts a daily "Deals of the Day" feature until Dec. 22.
Wal-Mart is offering free shipping for the purchase of almost all items if the order is for more than $50. Amazon's threshold for free shipping is $35.
"Customers want to relax with friends and family during the holidays, and with our early deals we are helping them make the most of their time and helping them stretch their dollars further," said Walmart.com CEO Joel Anderson in a statement.
Anderson said Walmart.com has seen a rise in online traffic the day after Halloween.
"We're making it easy for customers to discover and zero in on the hottest gifts and holiday trends - from streaming media players to Bluetooth portable speakers," Ben Hartman, Amazon.com's vice president of consumer electronics, said in a statement.
Even otherwise, shoppers are happy with an early beginning of the season.
Alison Paul, vice chairman at the consulting company Deloitte, told The Washington Post that retailers have partly responded to consumers' craving for an early start of the holiday shopping season.
The company's 2013 holiday survey suggests that shoppers plan to spend $421 on gifts, up nine percent from $386 last year. Released on Oct. 22, the survey also shows internet taking the No.1 shopping destination spot from discount or value department stores for the first time. It says 47 percent expect to shop online this year.
According to Deloitte forecast, retailers are likely to have moderate gains this season due to the gradual but steady improvement in the economy.
"Rising home prices with steady job creation may buoy consumers' confidence in the economy and create a wealth effect," said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte's senior U.S. economist, in a statement in September. "The debt ceiling and budget debate will resume this fall alongside uncertainty about the implementation of health care reform, which may cause some concern among consumers, but at a macro level, these factors are unlikely to have a significant effect on the economy and retail sales."
The National Retail Federation also predicts that Christmas sales will rise by about 4 percent this year, up from 3.5 percent last year. And online sales are likely to be 15 percent higher than in 2012.
Other retail chains, including J.C. Penney and Macy's that normally open their deals on Black Friday, have said they will begin on Thanksgiving this year.