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Recently I wrote about how online marketers need to already get started with preparations for the holiday shopping season. Well, I fully expected that the push for holiday shopping would begin earlier as it’s been creeping into the end of the third quarter more and more over the last few years.

But Amazon’s announcement that it will hold a special 20th Anniversary blowout sale exclusively for its Amazon Prime Customers starting today and lasting 24 hours has other big retailers – including Walmart and BestBuy – holding their own “Black Friday” sales.

Wal-Mart jumped in with a sales day of its own on the same day that will be filled with what it calls “atomic specials” and thousands of deals. Best Buy has “Black Friday in July” slotted for July 24 and 25. Kohl’s has a “one-day sale featuring 50 percent off specials” today. Target’s sale ended on Monday.

Analysts say these special sales were prompted by retail sales unexpectedly declining 0.3% in June and May’s advance was downgraded to 1.0 percent from 1.2% percent. It is also seen as a way to get rid of excess inventory.

The Amazon sales are available only to its Prime members but Amazon is currently offering the membership, normally $99 a year, for free as a 30-day trial. Shoppers will be privy to enticements such as “Lightning Deals” and “Deals of the Day” throughout today and will receive free and unlimited two-day shipping.

Wal-Mart’s slight advantage in this shopping battle with Amazon is that Wal-Mart has a brick and mortar presence and is offering in store pick up.

The two companies are also sparring in the press with Amazon questioning the logic of retailers who make prices cheaper for online versus in-store shoppers. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart has said that by only offering the deals to Prime Customers, people are forced to pay a fee (typically $100 per year for Prime) to get discounts.

This heated competition could be good news for affiliates who may be experiencing a bit of the Summer Doldrums prior to their big push to promote Back-to-School offers. Although, the reactive nature of retailers’ response to Amazon’s Prime Day likely left affiliates little time to prepare for the sales.

In addition, affiliates need to be careful about how they promote these offers. I think that using sales terms such as Christmas in July and Black Friday could turn off consumers that are already experiencing some fatigue over the ever-lengthening duration of the holiday shopping season.

Check back next week we will have market research on how consumers responded to these sales.