(MoneyWatch) The holiday shopping season is starting early this year -- very early. Retailers are already starting to roll out their so-called "door-buster" deals, typically reserved for the day after Thanksgiving and beyond.
Wal-mart (WMT) introduced some early holiday deals online on November first -- the day after Halloween, offering deep discounts on LCD TVs and tablet computers."The early-bird shopper, the ones that are coming now -- they can find equally good deals in November as they can in December," said Joel Anderson, president and CEO of Walmart.com.
Customer response to the early sale was "tremendous," according to a Wal-mart spokesperson.
Electronics superstore Best Buy (BBY) also jumped in early, offering a "Black Friday" promotion on a select number of items the first weekend of November. BJ's Wholesale Club, meanwhile, will make its Black Friday deals available for the entire week. They will offer discounts on everything from gold necklaces to TVs to kids' pajamas, starting the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Not to be outdone, online retailers are getting in the holiday spirit early early as well. Amazon (AMZN), for example, is currently counting down to Black Friday with daily deals. The web promotion reads "Black Friday isn't until the day after Thanksgiving, but since you're already here, looking for Black Friday deals, we kicked off the deals a little early."
What's the reason for the rush to early sales this year? "There's a limited number of holiday gift dollars out there, and whoever gets them first, wins," said retail analyst Candace Corlett.
Sean Phillips with CBL and Associates is the regional marketing director for a dozen malls in the Midwest. He says retailers are nervous. "There are six less shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. When that happens," he said, "retailers do worry about shoppers being in the mood."
Perhaps in response to that concern, many retailers for the first time plan to open their stores this year on Thanksgiving Day itself. Macy's (M), JC Penney (JCP), Sears (SHLD), and Toys R Us are among those who announced they will open Thanksgiving eve. Kmart, meanwhile, will open even earlier - 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.
The move has prompted some smaller retailers to follow suit. Phillips said after they heard from the department stores about their plans to open, they decided to open the malls too. They sent a memo out to their smaller stores to let them know. "At this point it's looking to be 20-25 percent of those stores being open at 8pm (Thanksgiving Day), and then I'm going to guess probably two-thirds or so open at midnight."
He said opening earlier and earlier is definitely working out well for retailers. Two years ago they opened the malls at midnight for the first time. He said, traffic was strong, but because shoppers had more time, there wasn't that mad rush for deals. "I think it's good from the retailers' side. It gives them the time to restock and change shifts if they need to, so kind of spreading it out was kind of good for their business overall."
So, will this trend continue? Are Halloween door-busters and Thanksgiving Day trips to the mall the way of the future? Analyst Candace Corlett thinks so. "Once the holiday shopping date is moved forward, it never moves backwards."