Forget about getting up early or staying up late for Black Friday this year.
Three of the major retailers — Target, Walmart and Toys "R" Us — are starting their Black Friday specials well before the turkey dinner digests.
Target announced Monday it will open at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving — a full three hours earlier than last year's 12:01 a.m. Black Friday start. Then at 4 a.m., Target will roll out a second wave of specials, from a 50-inch Samsung TV for $699 to a Fisher-Price Doodle Pro Classic for $10.
Early birds will get the worm in the form of a $10 Target gift card for spending $50 or more on apparel, accessories or home products before noon Friday.
Walmart will kick off its in-store specials at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving — two hours before last year. The deals will phase in with an electronics sale from 10 to 11 p.m. and weekend deals starting at 5 a.m. Friday.
For the first time, Walmart is guaranteeing the availability of popular sale items, which in the past have sold out quickly, leaving a lot of people out of luck. Anyone inside the store and in line between 10 and 11 p.m. Thanksgiving can buy an LG Blu-ray player for $38, an Emerson 32-inch LCD TV for $148 or an Apple iPad 2 16GB with Wi-Fi and a $75 Walmart gift card for $399.
If any of the items sell out before 11 p.m., Walmart will offer a Guarantee Card that must be bought at the store by midnight and registered online. The product will then be shipped to the store where you purchased it for pickup before Christmas.
Santa's helpers might head to Toys "R" Us. The chain is opening at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving — an hour earlier than last year — with bundles of toys 50 percent off.
This seems pretty good for the shoppers who like to map out their Black Friday deals in advance and don't want to get up in the middle of the night. In theory, having some of the big guys open on Thanksgiving means a larger window for hitting more specialized stores with traditional Black Friday hours.
It might not be so great for the employees, who already endure long hours during Thanksgiving weekend. Earlier hours means less time for family dinners and post-turkey naps on the couch. Imagine having to rush through dinner to work through the night? By the end of your shift, you'll be most thankful for a bed.
Several people have created petitions on the website Change.org urging chains to keep their doors shut on Thanksgiving. As of Monday, one petition from a Target employee who wanted to save the holiday from "Thanksgiving creep" had more than 154,000 supporters.
The same petitions emerged last year when many stores pushed up their openings to midnight. Obviously, strong sales trumped the petitions.
In other Black Friday news, USA Today reported Monday that JCPenney will distribute more than 80 million holiday-themed buttons to customers between Black Friday and Christmas Eve. Each has a code that shoppers enter on Penney's website to find out if they've won prizes such as a trip to Disneyland, tickets to The Ellen DeGeneres Show or store merchandise and gift cards.
The buttons aim to attract customers who have been confused and/or unimpressed by Penney's year-old pricing strategy that replaced coupons and sales with everyday low prices. Last week, the department store chain reported a nearly 27 percent drop in third-quarter revenue — the third quarter in a row of big losses.
I hope it works. I shopped at Penney's all the time until it eliminated the $10-off coupons and doorbuster sales. I liked the feeling of getting a deal and, without the frequent reminders about discounts, I kind of forgot about the place.
The buttons sound nice, but I'm not thrilled about having to go online and check for something I probably won't win. I would much prefer a coupon in the paper or the mail.
Susan Thurston can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 225-3110.