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Holiday shopping started in July this year, thanks to Amazon

If someone asked you when the holiday shopping season starts, you’d likely point to Black Friday, when flocks of people will rush to stores after a hearty turkey dinner to pick through the hottest deals. But for more people in 2019, holiday shopping started in July.

Why? Amazon.

Amazon’s annual Prime Day extravaganza has “become a real part of the changing holiday dynamic,” according to NPD Group. “Its impact on holiday shopping should not be dismissed.”

NPD Group found about a third of people did some holiday shopping during Amazon’s 48-hour Prime Day event this year. It surveyed 3,485 consumers during September. Five percent of people had already finished their holiday shopping ahead of Prime Day, which started on July 15 this year.

Still, about 17% of people are planning to start their holiday shopping on Black Friday, up “significantly” from 2018, according to NPD Group. The day is still the kickoff to the season for many.

Retail executives on a slew of earnings conference calls this week spoke to how the season has started earlier and earlier. To some degree, this is the result of retailers looking at a compressed holiday season. There are six fewer days in between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day this year. And so seasonal promotions started early.

Kohl’s held its “holiday kickoff” on Nov. 1, a sort of Black Friday “preview” the company started testing a few years ago, CEO Michelle Gass told CNBC in a phone interview. “That event did very well. It exceeded out expectations. … And that gives me confidence as we head into the core holiday season.”

Walmart said it started advertising deals “earlier than ever,” in October, to try to attract shoppers sooner.

Macy’s has set a “powerful marketing calendar that addresses the cadence of a shorter holiday season,” CEO Jeff Gennette told analysts on Thursday. “Our stores are set for the holidays,” he added.

“Every day is going to count,” this holiday season, according to Target CEO Brian Cornell. Like it did last year, Target has also made shipping free for all shoppers, with no minimum purchase required, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 21.

With these retailers’ tactics in place, there are already some early winners. In the first two weeks of November, Walmart saw the biggest jump in online spending among retailers compared with last year, according to an analysis of 1.2 million transactions by EdisonTrends.

Second was Target, followed by Amazon, Nordstrom, Etsy, Best Buy and Macy’s.

“Consumers don’t wait for Thanksgiving or Black Friday anymore, and neither do retailers,” data firm Prosper Insights & Analytics EVP of strategy, Phil Rist, said. “Retailers responded this year by offering promotions earlier than ever, with some rolling out holiday deals even before Halloween.”

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