Janie Mayo's Thanksgiving looks like most everyone else's - the family gathers, there's some football-watching until it's time to eat and then there's turkey and all the trimmings.

"Except that ours was Sunday," Ms. Mayo, the manager of the Tyler Kohl's, said. "But that's what you have to expect in retail. This is our season."

Like most retailers, Kohl's begins its Black Friday event on Thursday. Ms. Mayo will be at the store by mid-afternoon, when the rest of the world will be lolling in a turkey stupor - to be ready for the store's 6 p.m. opening.

The annual sales event is named for the day retailers reportedly become profitable, or "in the black."

If anything, the movement to start Black Friday earlier and earlier seems to have slowed. The earliest most stores are opening on Thanksgiving is 5 p.m. - that includes Best Buy and Toys ‘R' Us. Target and Wal-Mart both open at 6 p.m.

Broadway Square Mall will open at 6 p.m. on Thursday, as well. Its stores will remain open until 1 a.m. on Friday, then re-open for the official Black Friday at 6 a.m.

"We recommend that shoppers arrive at Broadway Square Mall with a holiday shopping game plan," Candace Foster, the mall's director of marketing and business development, said. "Make a list of all those you need to buy gifts for and do your research on the best deals at each retailer."

There's some mythology that has gathered around Black Friday; holiday shopping is a season-long marathon, not a one-day sprint. Many stores will have some Friday incentives and prizes, but there will be sales throughout the season.

"The first 100 shoppers on Thanksgiving Day will receive a free gift at Simon Guest Services [the mall operator], and the first 200 shoppers on Black Friday will receive free breakfast," Ms. Foster said. "Simon Guest Services will have refreshments and treats throughout the weekend, and Broadway Square Mall management will show shopper appreciation through special ‘surprise and delight' moments."

Kohl's is all-on Star Wars this year, and the first 100 shoppers on Thursday will receive a voucher to see the new "Star Wars" film when it opens on Dec. 18. In fact, Star Wars is one of the big trends this holiday. Ms. Mayo had her doubts - at first. But she's already seeing merchandise moving fast.

"I just didn't know," she said. "We got the Star Wars cookie cutters in, the R2D2 pizza cutter."

But it was the Darth Vader toaster convinced her.

"Everyone loves it," she said. "I'm selling out of them. Really, I think it's people our age buying it as much as the kids."

Another hot category is wellness and workout equipment.

"Fit-Bit is huge," Ms. Mayo said. "People want to get healthier and feel better."

 

NATIONAL TRENDS

According to the National Retail Federation, as many as 60 percent of Americans already started their holiday shopping by early November.

"The importance of Thanksgiving weekend to both retailers and consumers will never change," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. "However, retailers have already given consumers several good reasons to start their holiday shopping earlier. We suspect early holiday shoppers could still be on the fence about whether or not to try their hand at finding online and in-store deals Thanksgiving weekend."

Still, he added, "this weekend isn't the end-all-be-all; it's important to remember, there will be several important weekends to keep an eye on before we wrap up the holiday season."

Ms. Mayo said Kohl's is seeing another trend - buying online and picking up items at the local store.

"We expected to see a certain amount of that per day," she said. "But we've already seen much, much more of it. That's why we've now got specific parking for purchased-online customers and even a special check-out line for it. That's becoming really big."

Analyst Pam Goodfellow, with industry group Prosper, agrees.

"Given how shoppers today overall gravitate toward all things digital, there's a high likelihood online shopping will be bigger than ever over the holiday weekend and on Cyber Monday," she said in a release from the National Retail Federation.

That's particularly true for the Millennial generation.

"For these adults, it's less about making room for pumpkin pie and more about going out with friends, checking out the deals through their mobile phones and experiencing retailers' night owl hours and perhaps making a dent in their shopping lists," Ms. Goodfellow said.

TWITTER: @tmt_roy

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Follow Tyler Paper's live coverage of Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping at tylerpaper.com as stores open Thursday evening and join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #BlackFriday and #ShopTyler. 

 

THANKSGIVING & BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING HOURS

Broadway Square Mall stores

Opens 6 p.m. Thursday, closes 1 a.m.

Opens again 6 a.m. Friday

 

Best Buy

Open 5 p.m. Thursday, closes 1 a.m. Friday

Opens again 8 a.m. Friday

 

Toys ‘R' Us

Opens 5 p.m. Thursday,

More at 7 a.m. Friday

 

Target

6 p.m. Thursday

 

Wal-Mart 

Opens 6 p.m. Thursday, will stay open

 

Kohl's 

Opens 6 p.m. Thursday, stays open until midnight Friday

 

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