Shoppers are hoping Black Friday discounts will salve their black mood about the economy. Thanks to leaked Black Friday ads, they can comparison shop well before Thanksgiving and plan a proper assault on retailers, some of which will open at 5 am or earlier.
Almost every retailer is looking for a piece of Black Friday pie, but the New York Times reports that the rivalry between Wal-Mart and Amazon is escalating beyond cost-cutting and price matching.
There was a time when you surfed Amazon for books, and waded through Wal-Mart for just about everything else. But thanks to Amazon’s more than two dozen departments, from automotive to watches, consumers increasingly see shopping from the comfort of their living rooms as a welcome alternative to braving the cold and the crowds -- not to mention risking serious injury or death at a post-Thanksgiving Wal-Mart.
Though Wal-Mart’s revenues are 20 times Amazon’s, Sam Walton’s legacy is unwilling to cede even the crumbs from its table. A tit-for-tat price war began in October over the price of certain books. Target soon joined the fray, and this month the battle spilled into DVD territory.
Wal-Mart doesn’t feel as threatened by a fellow brick-and-mortar, though, and has taken its competition with Amazon to a more personal level, deriding the Amazon Prime shipping service and claiming, more or less, that it will eventually squash the company in the online retail arena.
For Amazon’s part, it simply released its own “Black Friday Deals Week” of specials – curiously, Amazon seems to be one of the few retailers to actually employ the term “Black Friday” – while firing a little salvo at some unnamed parties:
You shouldn’t have to stand in a long line to get a great deal. We’re searching for the best Black Friday deals everywhere – including deals other stores are planning – so we can meet or beat their prices and bring them to you even earlier.
What we’re seeing is a further blurring of the line separating online-exclusive retailers from the big-box brands that just happen to have a web presence. Amazon is going even further in terms of its brand identity, according to “Mad Money” loudmouth Jim Cramer, who calls it the “the most misunderstood, most underestimated” brand in the US. Even now, he says, the brand – which not just an online Borders – rules retail.
If he's right, Wal-Mart has real reason to worry.