Whether it's the middle of the night after Thanksgiving or the middle of the day at the office, shoppers will find deals awaiting them online and in stores as retailers do everything they can to make the most of another tepid holiday spending season.
Retail experts predict sales will be stronger this holiday season than they were last year, but not by much. The National Retail Federation estimates holiday sales will increase 2.3 percent this year over 2009. Chicago-based ShopperTrak pegs the rise at 2.9 percent.
To grab a bigger share of limited budgets, major chains and shopping malls will stay open even longer this year for Black Friday, the traditional shopping day after Thanksgiving, to give consumers more time to buy. And they're extending sales and discount offers well beyond Nov. 26, making every day Black Friday somewhere.
"Essentially, Black Friday started about two or three weeks ago," said George Whalin, president of Retail Management Consultants in Carlsbad, Calif. "I don't know that I've ever seen so much Christmas advertising starting, really, about the first of November."
Sears will open Thanksgiving Day, from 7 a.m. to noon, for the first time in its history and will open at 4 a.m. Friday. To bring shoppers in earlier, Sears has been offering limited-time discounts since October like those traditionally offered on Black Friday. Kohl's will open at 3 a.m. on Friday, and Target at 4 a.m. Toys R Us has expanded its retail chain with 600 seasonal stores around the U.S., and will stay open all night after Thanksgiving with door-buster deals at 10 p.m. when stores open and again at 5 a.m. Walmart will offer door-buster deals at midnight and 5 a.m..
Big-box retailers are offering deep discounts on a small selection of key items to get people in the door. But supplies will be limited.
Nikoleta Panteva, a retail analyst with market research firm IBISWorld in Santa Monica, Calif., said Black Friday discounts won't be as deep as they were last year, but they will probably last longer. Sales are expected to increase only 1.9 percent this year on Friday, but 3.4 percent for the whole holiday weekend.
Panteva said Black Friday is losing some of significance as other trends emerge.
For example, IBISWorld predicts online sales will rise 13.2 percent on Cyber Monday, the day after Thanksgiving weekend, when people continue their shopping online, often from the office.