For years, Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving—unofficially kicked off the holiday shopping season. But then stores started opening on Thanksgiving, and online and brick-and-mortar retailers launched big sales days and weeks before then.
By 2014, the day after Halloween had been established as a major launch point for early Black Friday promotions, and this year November 1 is again a noteworthy day for holiday sales.
Amazon kicked things off at 3 a.m. ET (midnight PT) last night with the first of tens of thousands of sales during its Countdown to Black Friday Deals Week promotions. The site is promoting discounts on a range of electronics, toys, clothes, and household goods, with most deals available only for 24 hours or until they're sold out.
But are the "deals" actually deals? Be cautious. The discounts available on Tuesday morning were typically in the neighborhood of 30% to 40% off—the kinds of markdowns that pop up left and right throughout the year. As USA Today noted, "Don't expect many of the big ticket deals that headline actual Black Friday sales, though for those looking to get some items off their holiday wish lists you may find decent savings."
Amazon isn't alone in its efforts to play the early Black Friday card. Office Depot and OfficeMax actually introduced early Black Friday sales starting on October 30. The promotions include a Lenova laptop for $299 (normally $499), a wireless virtual reality headset for $14.99 (normally $49.99), and select doorbuster deals with discounts of 50% or more on items like flash drives and office furniture.
Likewise, Walmart has rolled out early bird online specials this week, though it's unclear if the deals are any different from the usual weekly sales promotions. Meanwhile, Best Buy and Target have already introduced free no-minimum-purchase shipping offers for all purchases throughout the holidays, and they too have some early sales of note. For example, right now Target has a buy two, get one free deal on video games and board games.