November 1, 2012, 10:30 AM

Black Friday shows up early at Amazon

The e-retailer launches an online store with limited-time deals.

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Amazon.com Inc. today gave further proof that Black Friday is turning into that party guest who insists on showing up two hours early but redeems himself by bringing tasty dip and an extra case of imported beer.

The e-retailer, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, today launched its Black Friday Deals Store. Holiday shoppers can browse various discounted products and also gift cards while a clock to the right ticks down the days, hours, minutes and second left until what Amazon calls “Black Friday Deals Week”—that is, the week that leads up to Thanksgiving and the day after, which goes by its informal but increasingly used name Black Friday.

The upper right corner of the store’s site, www.amazon.com/blackfriday, offers a “Deal of Day.” This morning, consumers could buy—for up to 65% off normal prices—DVDs of various TV shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly” created or produced by Joss Whedon. Below that, Amazon displayed what it called “Lightning Deals.” Those limited-time sales included 50% off Diesel pants for women and 35% off Skechers running shoes. Tabs above those sales showed consumers deals they had missed and deals yet to come.

“By visiting our Black Friday Deals Store, customers can expect to find a large selection of the most anticipated products of the season, all for a great price,” said Ben Hartman, vice president of consumer electronics for Amazon.com. “Plus, they can take advantage of free shipping on millions of items through Amazon Prime and Free Super Saver Shipping.” Amazon Prime enables consumers to receive two-day shipping in exchange for a $79 annual membership fee. Super Saver Shipping is what Amazon calls its policy of offering consumers free shipping on eligible orders of at least $25.

The notion that Black Friday sales should wait for the day after Thanksgiving seems an increasingly old-fashioned one. In late October, for instance, coupon web site RetailMeNot.com launched a campaign called “OctoNovemCember” that gives holiday shoppers access to Black Friday-like deals weeks before the actual marketing and shopping holy day.  Earlier this autumn, e-mail services provider Responsys Inc. reported that some 80% of major retailers will send e-mail marketing messages to consumers on Thanksgiving Day this year, up from 76% last year, 60% in 2010 and 45% in 2009—another sign that retailers are less content to wait until Black Friday before getting into the meat of their holiday marketing and offers.

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