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Published: Tuesday, 11/13/2007

Retailers to disclose own sale prices early

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Dogged the last three years by Internet Web sites that disclose lists of special sale items available to shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving, some retailers this year have decided to reveal the information early themselves.

Best Buy, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Meijer Inc. plan to pre-empt their own advertising circulars, which usually arrive in newspapers on Thanksgiving.

"The fact that consumers are very eager to find out what's going to happen on Black Friday morning never changes," said Kathy Grannis, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation.

But the economic importance of Black Friday, so called because sales that day traditionally put a retailer in the black for the year, may have altered the cat-and-mouse game stores play with Web sites trying to reveal the sales.

Surveys by the retail federation indicate that holiday shopping is off to a slow start, with 71 percent of consumers having less than 10 percent of their shopping done thus far.

Additionally, the trade group's surveys indicate consumer spending will rise only about 4 percent to $474.5 billion. That would fall well below the 10-year

average of 4.8 percent annually and would be the slowest holiday sales growth since 2002.

So stores are trying to find ways to lure shoppers early.

Stacie Behler, a Meijer spokesman, said the Thanksgiving weekend generates lots of excitement, and the Michigan store chain has revealed some of its Black Friday sales.

The retailer placed digital copies of all its "doorbuster" specials, available at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and 5 a.m. on the next two days, on its Web site yesterday.

Among the specials are a 37-inch high-definition LCD TV for $500, a 4.3-inch Magellan GPS system for $200, and a variety of traditional board games on a buy-one, get-one-free offer.

Wal-Mart, which has been blase about Black Friday ads in the past, took a new tack this year. It sent the private Web sites notices that it would sue if they disclosed the company's ads early.

However, on Nov. 1, the nation's largest retailer announced it would offer holiday discounts three weeks in advance. It notified the private Web sites it would post its day-after-Thanksgiving specials next Monday on its Web site.

"Their ads broke early last year and I think they felt that if they had a really good sale on Black Friday it would hurt their weekly sales leading up to that day," said Michael Brim, a California college student who runs the bfads.net Web site.

Mr. Brim said no one has decided to test Wal-Mart's threat of litigation, but other retailers seemingly are becoming more cooperative. For example, Pacific Sunwear sent him its ads last year asking that they be posted to his site.

Not all retailers are cooperative.

Best Buy still doesn't like having its information leaked, mainly because there is a chance it could be wrong, said spokesman Brian Lucas.

"We want the accurate information out, but we don't want to put it out too early," he added.

The retailer has been critical of Black Friday Web sites the last few years but this year will put its Friday "doorbuster" specials on its Web site on Wednesday morning.

"You can look at and verify it on BestBuy.com so that you don't think there's a deal that's not really out there. So much goes into pulling it off, we decided to post this information a little earlier," Mr. Lucas said.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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