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Black Friday Isn't Dead, but It's Dying

Daniel B. Kline, The Motley Fool

The Friday after Thanksgiving used to mark the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Called "Black Friday," some say it got that name because it was the day when retailers begin to turn a profit or move from "the red" to "the black."

For decades Black Friday was a tradition for many families. People would get up early, head to packed stores, and fight for deals that were often stellar, but in limited quantities.

That has changed in recent years as holiday sales are starting as early as Nov. 1 and some retailers open on Thanksgiving Day. In addition, Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, has become a day for people to score online deals.

What was once a singular day to get deals has become merely one day in a nearly two-month holiday shopping season. It's not that Black Friday has lost all of its luster, but it continues to fade in importance, and a new report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN) shows that will continue in 2017.

A woman puffs out her cheeks and looks upward while wearing a Santa hat and holding shopping bags.

Sometimes shopping on Black Friday is more trouble than it's worth. Image source: Getty Images.

What will happen this Black Friday?

Just over half (52%) of the 1,500 people sampled for Accenture's Holiday Shopping Survey said that they are less likely to shop on Black Friday in 2017. About the same number, reported that they were less likely to shop on Thanksgiving while 42% felt the same way about Cyber Monday.

For those who plan to stay home on Black Friday, 64% cited crowds as their reason. In addition, 44% don't hit the stores on Black Friday because they believe they can get as good, if not better, prices on other days. The majority of consumers (64%) said they now shop for holiday gifts throughout the year.

"Given the rise of constant discounts and promotions on sites such as Amazon, consumers are doing more of their holiday shopping year-round, and this is proving to be the biggest competitor to the traditional peak holiday shopping days," said Accenture Senior Marketing Director Jill Standish in a press release. "Smart retailers are taking a longer-term view of the season."

This is good for shoppers

Because of the changing retail market, and the growth of e-commerce, retailers must work harder. That includes not just having the items consumers want but also helping shoppers find things to buy.

"Winning over the consumer will require providing active, rather than passive, shopping inspiration," Standish  was quoted as saying. "For instance, by proactively offering gift recommendations for that special person, retailers can influence purchasing before consumers check out Amazon or other e-tailers."

While it has become more difficult to know exactly when to shop to get the best price on every item on your list, it has become much easier to generally get a good deal. Stores have sales more often and nearly every major retailer has spread out its holiday offering across more than just Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.

Pricing has become a game of chicken between consumers and stores. If the season does not have a strong start, then the best prices could actually come closer to Christmas. Of course, that may not happen, and waiting may make it hard to get exactly what you were hoping to buy.

Black Friday is still a day when shoppers will find bargains. The reality, though, is that those deals may not prove to be the deepest discounts of the season. And, even when they are, the difference between shopping a less-crowded random day in December may be worth the trade-off.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool recommends Accenture. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.