12 days of Christmas? Amazon finds ways to add days of shopping hoopla

SEATTLE — Amazon is trying to add a few more shopping holidays to the calendar.

When the retail giant touted its record sales for the Monday after Thanksgiving, Amazon retail boss Jeff Wilke boasted: “Amazon customers shopped at record levels during the Turkey 5.”

The Turkey 5? That’s a recent invention of Amazon’s, one of the Seattle company’s range of efforts to turn the last two months of the year into a nonstop shopping bonanza.

Enabled by Amazon and its e-commerce brethren, online purchases have reshaped the high shopping season in the U.S., even nudging brick-and-mortar retailers to offer promotions on dates beyond the all-important Black Friday.

For Amazon, this year brought Wilke’s effort to claim the entire Thanksgiving weekend, as well as the company’s second annual “Digital Day.” Amazon’s day of discounts on music, apps, e-books and other goodies, set for this Friday, is pitched as an opportunity for people to load up on digital wares for electronics they received as gifts.

Not to be outdone, Amazon’s mirror in Chinese e-commerce, Alibaba, has helped turn Singles’ Day in November into a mammoth shopping occasion.

This year, though, Amazon and other e-commerce sellers may face competition from the calendar itself.

Because Christmas fell on a Monday this year, more people may have done their last-minute shopping at the mall, analysts with Piper Jaffray said in a research note. Respondents in a survey by the investment bank said they planned to make 39 percent of their gift purchases online, up just 1 percentage point from the previous year, slower growth than in both 2016 and 2015.

Amazon fought back by extending into the evening on Dec. 24 its order deadline for promised delivery before Christmas.

Brick-and-mortar rivals are making similar moves. The Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart and Best Buy had also extended their last-minute online shopping options this year.

On a visit to Amazon’s Prime Now rapid delivery hub in North Seattle one afternoon this week, the holiday rush wasn’t yet apparent. A few Amazon employees quietly and efficiently piloted carts through narrow racks of items, picking items seemingly placed at random — a single shelf might contain fishing weights and peanut butter as well as headphones.

Outside, two men leaned against a Toyota Prius, waiting to pick up their next deliveries made through Amazon’s Flex fleet of on-demand drivers.

New this year to Amazon’s three Seattle-area Prime Now depots: goods from participants in its Amazon Handmade craft goods program.

Sarah Bak, a Seattle potter, was on hand showing her wares. She suspects some of her sales are coming from people looking for gifts for party hosts, or those who missed out on holiday craft fairs.

It’s hard to predict, she says.

“There can be a day where we sold six of one particular product, and another where we sold none,” she said.