Cleveland — Black Friday is still three weeks away, but retailers are already pulling out all the stops as they battle for the $720 billion dollars the National Retail Federation expects will be spent be spent this holiday season.
In fact, that mad dash on Black Friday with shoppers looking for the best deals, may be headed the way of a bad Christmas sweater.
Amazon just announced it's offering free shipping with all holiday orders shipped before Christmas.
But it’s not the only company offering incentives to early shoppers, Brick and Mortar stores are offering big deals and trying to make in-store shopping as easy as ordering online.
Let's start with shipping: Amazon used to require a $25 minimum for free shipping to non-Prime customers.
For prime members, who already get two-day shipping for free, the company says more than 3 million items will now qualify for "same-day" delivery.
This comes after Target announced last month that it’s offering free two-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items, with no minimum purchase.
And Walmart said it would provide free shipping on millions of items for orders totaling more than $35 dollars.
Hitha Herzog, a Consumer Spending Analyst with H Squared Research says, "When it comes to free shipping, it's not the customers that will end up paying the cost but the companies that provide the product. The prices that consumers pay have already been pre-determined."
And Black Friday-like prices are already popping up.
Walmart is advertising 40% off certain items… including tech.
Home Depot is offering 40% off of their appliances.
And thousands of discounts have already been posted on Amazon.
"The retailers want us to start thinking about going out there, getting our products, saving money," said Herzog.
They’re also trying to make the in-store shopping experience easier. Both Target and Walmart are helping shoppers skip the lines and check out from anywhere in the store, with hand-held scanners.
Walmart has also introduced technology that lets you type an item into their App, and it will direct you to the exact aisle where it is located.
All of this is a big gift for shoppers who can't bear the crowds or can't stop procrastinating.
And here's another perk this holiday season: With Toys “R” Us shutting up shop, retailers are fighting for its old customers. Many have expanded their inventory, with stores like Best Buy even getting in on the action. And we're told Target is adding 250,000 square feet of space in its stores for toys.
So overall, this is expected to be a blockbuster season for retailers. Consumers are predicted to spend more than $1,250 each.