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November 13, 2012

Black Thursday? Stores to open even earlier on Thanksgiving

At this rate, we may have to rename Thanksgiving "Black Thursday."

Big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Sears are opening their doors at 8 p.m. Thursday — just as Thanksgiving dinner tables are being cleared in many homes. Target will follow suit at 9 p.m., enticing shoppers out of their homes during the final football game of the day.

Not everybody is happy about it, but retailers are scrambling to make the most of what is expected to be a mediocre shopping season — even if it means cutting into a holiday traditionally reserved for family gatherings and decadent meals.

"There's a segment of the population who wants to drop their drumstick and immediately pick up a door-buster," said Brian Hanover, a spokesman for Sears. "Our customers kept telling us they wanted more flexible Black Friday shopping hours."

Last year, when stores opened as early as 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, it sparked protests from workers and shoppers who worried that there soon wouldn't be any holiday left. This year, as retailers start even earlier, similar protests are underway: Target employees have started a petition to "save Thanksgiving," and Wal-Mart workers say they are gearing up for protests on Black Friday.

"It's ridiculous," said Anthony Hardwick, a former Target employee who led protest efforts last year. "We're getting rid of Thanksgiving dinner, and for what? For a $300 flat-screen TV?"

But retailers think they have found a new pocket of holiday shoppers — those who aren't eager to wake up early Friday for the traditional discounts but are willing to forgo Thanksgiving dessert.

Perhaps the earliest door-busters of the season will begin at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving, when Kmart will begin selling high-definition plasma TVs for $199.99. The retailer has stayed open on the holiday for the past 21 years but only recently began offering Black Friday discounts a day early.

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