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Black Friday 2011: How Early Will Shoppers Arrive This Year?

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BLACK FRIDAY 2011
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If recent trends hold true, a nationwide push to get customers in stores earlier than ever on Black Friday may pay off.

The share of Black Friday shoppers showing up to stores at midnight has steadily climbed since 2008, hitting 9.5 percent in 2010, according to data from the National Retail Federation. More than one-third of Black Friday shoppers were already lined up at stores by 5 a.m. last year, compared to less than fourth in 2008.

Multiple big name retailers are pushing up their openings in hopes of luring customers who may be hesitant to spend into stores early. Though Americans' pay rose by the most in seven months in October, consumer spending barely increased. More than 60 percent of consumers say the economic climate will impact their holiday spending this year, according to a separate survey from the NRF.

Target, Macy's and Best Buy are opening their doors at midnight on Black Friday, while Toys R Us and Walmart are opening on Thanksgiving Day.

"They're looking for just more hours to bring in more dollars," said Megan Donadio, a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates. "We've all heard many reports that consumers are going to be spending less this season, if consumers have less to spend retailers want to make sure they're spending with their store."

But for some, late evening on Thanksgiving Day may not be early enough. One Tampa woman lined up a full nine days early at her local Best Buy in hopes of netting a good deal on a flat screen TV. According to Donadio, that's exactly what retailers want to happen when they offer limited-time only deals.

"It helps to create a kind of frenzy, a kind of scarcity," she said. "By opening up earlier they're hoping that the consumer goes there first and the consumer spends their dollar there."

Many Black Friday traditionalists are upset that the deal bonanza will be starting earlier. Some shoppers who typically head to stores on Black Friday may be staying away this year, according to The New York Times, in part to spend Thanksgiving with their families, but also to protest stores' decision to force employees to work on Thanksgiving Day so that they can open earlier for Black Friday.

Workers at some big box stores are trying to convince them to abandon the midnight and Thanksgiving Day openings. One Target employee in Omaha, Nebraska started an online petition asking the retailer not to open at midnight on Black Friday so that workers could spend the whole day with their families. The petition has received nearly 200,000 signatures. A similar petition started by a Tampa Best Buy employee has netted more than 15,000 signatures.

Still, retailers are unlikely to be convinced by the petitions, when the opportunity to meet consumer demand for earlier openings exists. When Macy's announced its decision to open at midnight, Martine Reardon, Macy’s executive vice president for marketing, told the Associated Press that the earlier opening was a response to consumer demands.

"Given that it is the biggest historically, or at least one of the biggest shopping days of the year," said Mike Lubansky, a senior financial analyst at Sageworks, "it would make sense that they would want to maximize every possible hour that the they can get consumers in the door on that day."

Here is a guide to some of the best deals this Black Friday:

Black Friday Plans From 13 Big Retailers(CLONED)
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