November 1, 2011, 3:18 PM

Black Friday comes early for e-commerce

Amazon and Overstock launch programs designed to get a jump on day-after-Thanksgiving sales.

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The day after Thanksgiving looms nearly a month out, but large online retailers are already acting as though Black Friday were already here.

Amazon.com Inc. today introduced its Black Friday Deals store at amazon.com/blackfriday. Consumers today could find a 15% discount on an LG television, two-for-one video game offers and other discounts. The store also includes a countdown ticker to what Amazon calls Black Friday Deals Week, which starts at the beginning of Thanksgiving week when the retailer says it will offer more discounted products. Amazon.com is the No. 1 e-retailer in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

Amazon’s early start seems a smart way to snag the interest of early-bird gift buyers and those consumers who’ve started to plan how to tackle their shopping lists come Thanksgiving weekend, perhaps with a particular retailer. That’s because Experian Hitwise, a firm that tracks web traffic, recently reported that traffic to top e-retail sites was up 10% year over year for the week ending Oct. 23. Experian also says that last year 47% of all searches for “Black Friday” also included the retailer name, such as “Black Friday, Amazon.” Amazon was the No. 1 most-trafficked e-retail site on Black Friday last year, Experian Hitwise says.

Overstock.com Inc. also is making an early play for the loyalties of holiday shoppers. The e-retailer said today that consumers can receive a free 60-day trial membership to Club O, Overstock’s  rewards program. It grants consumers free shipping and 5% of the cost of purchases as a credit on future purchases.

The long trial window means consumers who sign up now will get the credits and free shipping through the end of the holidays. After 60 days, consumers who don’t cancel will be charged $19.95 for a year-long membership, Overstock says. The company also is running what it calls a “Pre-Black Friday Sale” on its web site, and a Black Friday-related contest on the Facebook social network.

Overstock is No. 27 in the Top 500 Guide.

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