Retail

Black Friday Sales Off and Running -- on Monday

Shopping Cart Full of Christmas Presents
Source: Thinkstock
Even though Black Friday is still five days away, big retailers are getting a jump on the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season with pre-Black Friday and other countdown promotions in an effort to boost sales by being first to get shoppers to open their wallets. This is a critical period for retailers, and none want to leave a dime on the table if there’s any way to avoid doing so.

Hewlett Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) on Friday lowered the price of a gaming laptop at its online store and on Sunday reduced prices on some monitors. The special pricing on monitors is good until Wednesday.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) kicked of a pre-Black Friday sale on Sunday and will feature promotional pricing of up to 70% off on some items purchased online.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) began its pre-Black Friday sale on Sunday as well. The sale prices are good through Wednesday and include HD TVs and more than 60 other items in the run-up to Thanksgiving Day.

Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) launched its pre-Black Friday deals Monday with special pricing on appliances, tools and a variety of other items. The prices are good through December 3.

Home Depot’s pre-season deals may be more important to the company than some of the others. Sure J.C. Penney needs a big holiday shopping season to convince investors that the company is truly turning itself around, and Walmart would like to put together back-to-back quarters of same-store sales growth. But Home Depot needs to win back its dominance over competitor Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW).

In the third quarter, Lowe’s outperformed Home Depot and of the two companies’ fourth-quarter estimates, Lowe’s were significantly better. Home Depot remains uncertain of the overall impact of the data breach that resulted in the release of some 56 million customer records. That uncertainty extends to its ability to attract customers as well as its sales and profits.

Home Depot’s pre-Black Friday promotion is a gamble that an increase in traffic and sales will not harm revenues, margins, and profits for the fourth quarter.

One interesting footnote to the frenzy around Black Friday. A report last week at CNBC noted that since 1980 among the stocks that have consistently posted gains in the period around Black Friday, both Home Depot and Lowe’s have shown positive returns 75% of the time in the two weeks around Black Friday. Only Coach Inc. (NYSE: COH) and Brown-Forman Corp. (NYSE: BF-B) have posted better records.

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