Monday, November 20, 2006

Retailers grumbling over Web sites that offer sneak peeks at day-after-Thanksgiving deals

Amy Baldwin
The Charlotte Observer

Can't wait a few more days to see what deals stores will offer the day after Thanksgiving? You don't have to.

A number of Web sites offer sneak peaks at what they say are ads retailers will run in newspapers on Thursday for Black Friday -- traditionally the first day of the year that many retailers make a profit or run in the black.

Retailers say the ads might not be legitimate, and complain they undermine their competitiveness. Some stores, including Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe's Companies Inc., are fighting the sites, which started in 2004 but really started getting noticed last year.

For example, Toys R Us Inc. will have a DVD player with 20 DVD movies for $29.99, while Target Corp. will offer a programmable coffee maker for $19, according to The stores did not return calls for comment.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will have a 20-inch flat screen TV for $68.97, while Sears will offer a one-carat diamond bracelet for $99, according to Black Friday Ads, found at Store officials could not be reached for comment. Jon Vincent, founder of, said employees at newspaper distribution facilities and third-party printers take photos of the ads and send them to his site. Newspapers, including the Observer, have policies forbidding employees from taking or leaking advertisements from facilities.

Vincent said he doesn't verify the purloined ads with the stores but looks to make sure they appear real and that prices seem reasonable.

Impatient -- or, perhaps smart -- shoppers can try to leverage these ads to get a retailer or a competitor to match the price now, said Dayana Yochim, personal finance guru at The Motley Fool and co-adviser for its GreenLight newsletter. Or, consumers could use the advance info to map out the Black Friday shopping strategy with the biggest savings.

"The whole concept of Black Friday is kind of spread out over weeks and weeks as opposed to just that one critical selling day," said Yochim, noting some of Black Friday ads were getting posted as early as two weeks before Halloween.

Yochim contends that some retailers, though she couldn't name any, leak their ads.

Vincent said that a few retailers, including CVS Corp., have asked him to post their ads. CVS could not immediately be reached for comment.

But most retailers prefer to keep ads under wraps until Thursday, said Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. Black Friday is a big deal, she said. It isn't the biggest shopping day of the year -- that honor goes to the Saturday before Christmas -- but it is the start to the holiday shopping season, which typically accounts for at least 20 percent of a retailer's annual sales.

"As a retailer, if you spent millions of dollars on advertising ... why would you want someone else to tell your story?" Davis said.

Vincent said that so far this year, three retailers -- Lowe's, Best Buy Co. Inc. and Linens N Things, asked to remove their ads from the site. The retailers cited trademark and copyright infringement. His site, which makes money from online advertisers and does not pay people for submitting sale ads, complied in all three cases.

Best Buy, however, said it didn't request its ad be pulled. Doing that for every site would take too much time, spokesman Brian Lucas said.

"It is not our policy to go after the Web sites that post rumors. Our main concern with the rumor sites is we can't verify their accuracy," Lucas said. "Customer disappointment is our biggest concern."

Last week, removed the Lowe's ad, which touted $700 cash-back on certain Frigidaire appliances.

"We don't want competitors to have time to create a better deal before shoppers have a chance to shop Lowe's," said spokeswoman Chris Ahearn.

Vincent said he doesn't believe advancing the ads is illegal or unethical.

"It's just sale prices and sales prices aren't copyrightable," he said. But "we definitely can't take on someone like Lowe's or Best Buy in court."

Wal-Mart is striking back in a different way. The world's largest retailer has said it will respond to its Black Friday ads having been leaked by announcing more deals on Thanksgiving Day, and only on its Web site (


  1. The internet has certainly changed things in so many ways. It almost seems as if nothing is protected and we are blasted with information and sneak peaks, spoilers and images more than in any other time in history.

    I do find this article and that someone actually has a web site like this funny. I dont know why-but it is. While I can see the side of the businesses ...It also amazes me that someone has taken the time to post leaks about Friday's sales in advance!
    (though there also is a disturbing part of Friday in all the greed and such in order to get more "stuff")Muddy

  2. A friend sent me the entire Belk After-Thanksgibng Day circular a few days before it was released and I made a concious effort not to post anythging about it, for the simple reason that there's too much of that information floating around.

    Bear in mind that I like a good deal as much as anybody, but I couldn't see the point in whipping people intomore of a frenzy about thes discounts than they already were. When I hear about people getting injured over discount TVs and new video game systems, it doesn't make me feel good.

    I went to Four Seasons on Black Firday (as you know), and even though only a handful of stores were open and everybody was having a good time, people were pigging out on anything cheap they could find. It wasn't a pretty scene. Even though I guess I contribute to the machine by being who I am and publishing what I do, I couldn't make that next step. :-(