By Sneha Banerjee and Subrat Patnaik
(Reuters) - Black Friday comes early to Saks Fifth Avenue stores this year.
The luxury retailer, owned by Canadian department store operator Hudson's Bay Co <HBC.TO>, will start Black Friday sales on Wednesday, Chief Executive Jerry Storch said.
"We thought it would be nice for customers to be able to come on Wednesday and get the great Black Friday offerings without having to go through the more crowded atmosphere on Friday," Hudson's Storch told Reuters.
The upscale Saks Fifth Avenue stores will be closed on Thanksgiving, unlike the offprice Saks OFF 5TH stores that will remain open on the day.
Black Friday is the peak shopping day of the holiday season and sales on the day signal whether retailers need to drop prices or change promotions. Last year, reports of weak Black Friday spending were followed by deeper discounting in the week before Christmas.
This year, retailers are taking a more cautious approach and have started offering deals sooner to attract shoppers.
Earlier this month, Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> offered a preview of its upcoming Black Friday deals, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N> said the majority of its Black Friday deals would be available on walmart.com after midnight on Thursday.
Best Buy Co Inc <BBY.N> has over the past couple of weeks offered discounts on select items. Others including Target Corp <TGT.N>, J.C. Penney Co Inc <JCP.N> and Kohl's Corp <KSS.N> have also stepped up promotions and deals as they look to grab a piece of the action.
WINTER IS COMING
North American apparel retailers are hoping for a solid start to the holiday season after a less-than-exciting back-to-school quarter, which led to a selloff in retail stocks.
While companies have blamed an unusually warm autumn for lackluster sales of winter clothes, market experts say shoppers are spending more on other items such as electronics, cars and travel or are hunting for deep discounts on Amazon.
This has led to rising inventory at stores such as Macy's Inc <M.N> and Nordstrom Inc <JWN.N>.
"There is no doubt that the entire market for coats and winter gear has been affected by an unusually warm fall but that's only one component of the business," Storch said.
He declined to comment on the company's third-quarter inventory levels because it is slated to report results on Dec. 10.
"And winter always comes ... often the weather affects the timing and weather affects the eventual outcome," he said, suggesting that inventories at stores could be cleared up in the holiday season.
The company, which completed the acquisition of Saks in November 2013, raised its sales and earnings forecast for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31 in September.
Hudson's Bay's shares had fallen 15.6 percent this year.
(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik and Sneha Banerjee in Bengaluru; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Anil D'Silva)