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Retailers one-up each other for holiday dollars

Black Friday shopping, the annual rite of passage on the day after Thanksgiving, is creeping further into the Thanksgiving holiday as more stores open their doors a day early.

It's a break with tradition. Black Friday, which typically is the year's biggest shopping day, for a decade has been considered the start to the busy holiday buying season. Stores opened in the wee hours of the morning with special deals called doorbusters and stayed open late into the evening.

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving and Christmas remained the only two days a year that stores were closed.

Now Thanksgiving is slowly becoming just another shopping day. Over the past few years, major retailers, including Target and Toys R Us, slowly have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night to one-up each other and compete for holiday dollars.

Macy's, J.C. Penney and Staples are opening on Thanksgiving for the first time. The Gap, which operates Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic, is opening half its stores Thanksgiving morning.

Roger Beahm, professor of marketing at the Wake Forest University School of Business in Winston-Salem, N.C., expects that it's just a matter of time -- he estimates five years -- before most chains open all day on Thanksgiving.

"The floodgates have opened," Beahm says.

As for Christmas, he says that day is still sacred among shoppers.

So far, it's unclear whether opening on Thanksgiving boosts retailers' top line or simply pushes forward sales from Friday. Last year, statistics from Chicago research firm ShopperTrak suggest, it was the latter, as Thanksgiving Day sales rose and Black Friday sales dipped slightly. -- AP

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