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With shorter shopping season, retailers start push early

Six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas

Gemvara chief executive Janet Holian said the shortened season is an issue because the company makes jewelry to order.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Gemvara chief executive Janet Holian said the shortened season is an issue because the company makes jewelry to order.

The holiday shopping season is just revving up and retailers are already trying to cut their losses. With six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year than last, many are pushing to get shoppers into stores and on websites sooner rather than later, hoping to jump-start early spending.

From small local shops to giant national chains like Target Corp., companies are hoping to make more with less — doing whatever they can to compensate for the compressed 27-day shopping period. In case you haven’t noticed the advertising blitz, many are pushing Internet deals and doorbuster promotions far in advance of Black Friday.

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“Every day matters, particularly every weekend,” said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, who sounds like a man who knows what financial havoc a snowstorm can wreak on a Saturday in December. “It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge you can overcome if you promote yourself right and get the potential customers to come through your front doors now.”

While economists and retail analysts question whether less time between the two holidays has a tangible effect on consumer spending, some store owners are convinced it matters. Or they are not willing to take chance it doesn’t.

“We’re definitely concerned,” said Janet Holian, chief executive of Gemvara, a Boston company that sells jewelry mostly online. “It’s an issue for us because when we say ‘made to order,’ we actually mean made to order.”

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Gemvara’s newly opened store on Newbury Street prepared for the season on Tuesday.

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To buy more time for buying, the three-year-old company is bumping up its traditional Black Friday special — 15 percent off regular prices — to next Tuesday, something the jeweler has never done before. As Christmas draws nearer, the company will begin featuring products online that can be ordered by Dec. 21 and still arrive in time to be under the tree for Christmas Eve.

Gemvara also opened a pop-up shop on Newbury Street this month, allowing customers to buy some jewelry in person.

Wayfair, a Boston company that offers more than 7 million home furniture and home decor products online, also is taking steps to ensure it does not lose out on any business in a shortened holiday season. Last week, the merchant’s home- page began featuring links to 100,000 items on sale for the holidays, many of which are available for two-day shipping. That allows the company to guarantee pre-Christmas arrival on orders placed up until Friday, Dec. 20.

In addition, Wayfair launched its daily deals — such as a 45 percent discount on some Ping-Pong and air hockey tables — about two weeks earlier than in 2012.

“The idea is to drive people in prior to the peak of the season and do it with really good offers,” said chief executive Niraj Shah, whose company is on track to generate $1 billion in sales for 2013. “You’re trying to do as much as you can early, because you know at the end there’s going to be a rush.”

Economists and analysts say that regardless of whether there are 27 or 33 shopping days between the two holidays, consumers have the same number of people to shop for and the same budget.

But Hurst said brick-and-mortar stores get a boost around the holidays from impulse purchases that often fall outside set budgets. He expects those sales to take a hit this year because there will be less time for people to be tempted by items that are not on their lists.

While retailers fret about time constraints, consumers appear to be benefiting from better bargains this year. Ashley Shih, managing director of Boston consulting firm Investor Group Services, said the sense of urgency on the part of merchants is translating into earlier opening times, deeper discounts, and more online offers.

“The importance of doing things to maximize what they get out of the holiday season is heightened,” Shih said. “Retailers are being more aggressive because they realize there are fewer days.”

Andy Chiarelli, who manages the Boston area for Target, said the shorter sales period requires the chain to up its game.

“It’s more likely to put pressure on [customers] who are already time-crunched during the busy holiday shopping season,” he said. “It’s more important than ever that we have the right products, at the right time, at the right prices.”

Taryn Luna can be reached at taryn.luna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @tarynluna.
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