Christmas creeps on Thanksgiving

Forget the traditional Thanksgiving holiday dinner. Many in the U.S. chose to get an even earlier jump on Christmas shopping, even if that meant sleeping on the sidewalk outside stores.

The early morning shopping chaos that has become a day-after-Thanksgiving tradition has crept back this year to eat into Thanksgiving Day itself.

What was known as Black Friday, the day when stores traditionally turn a profit for the year, started on Thursday evening in many places.

Target Corp. was opening its doors at 9 p.m. Thursday, three hours earlier than last year. Sears, which didn't open on Thanksgiving last year, was opening at 8 p.m. Others such as Macy's Inc. were opening at midnight on Black Friday.

Overall, about 17 per cent of shoppers planned to take advantage of Thanksgiving hours, according to a International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers.

Michael Prothero, 19, and Kenny Fullenlove, 20, missed Thanksgiving dinner altogether. They started camping out on Monday night outside a Best Buy store in Ohio, which was scheduled to open at midnight.

"Better safe than sorry," Prothero said.

Americans have grown more comfortable shopping online, which has put pressure on stores, which can make up to 40 per cent of their annual revenue during the two-month holiday shopping season, to compete. That's becoming more difficult. The National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, estimates that overall sales in November and December will rise 4.1 per cent this year to $586.1 billion, or about flat with last year's growth. But the online part of that is expected to rise 15 per cent to $68.4 billion, according to Forrester Research.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has been one of the biggest targets of protests against holiday hours. Many of the company's stores are open 24 hours, but the company was offering early bird specials that once were reserved for Black Friday at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving instead.

A union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which includes former and current workers, was staging demonstrations and walkouts at hundreds of stores on Black Friday.

But retailers said they are giving shoppers what they want. Dave Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the discounter learned from shoppers that they want to start shopping right after Thanksgiving dinner. Then they want time to sleep before they wake up and head back to the stores.

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