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Get ready for even earlier Black Friday shopping hours

We've barely made a dent in the Halloween candy, but already 'tis the season to be jolly — and spend money.

Stores are gearing up for Black Friday with even earlier hours than last year, when many retailers experimented with Thanksgiving hours and reaped the rewards. Stores are hoping for a repeat of 2011, when Black Friday sales were up 7 percent compared with the previous year, according to ShopperTrac.

Several stores have announced their schedules. Those that haven't will likely stick close to last year's hours.

Kmart stores will be open from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22. Then they will reopen from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Black Friday, Nov. 23.

Sears will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving and stay open overnight until 10 p.m. on Black Friday. That's a big change from last year's 4 a.m. start when Sears was one of the few holdouts to add hours.

Macy's announced Monday it will open Friday morning at midnight, based on the enthusiastic response from shoppers last year. New this Black Friday will be a feature on Macy's mobile app allowing customers to browse deals specific to their local store.

Kohl's will also open its doors Friday morning at midnight and stay open for 24 hours straight. For the first time, early-bird specials will be available at Kohls.com on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

Some stores are staying with more traditional Black Friday hours. RadioShack opens at 6 a.m., with deals starting at 12:01 a.m. on Thanksgiving on radioshack.com. Stein Mart opens at 7 a.m. There's no official word yet from heavyweights Best Buy and Target. They both opened at midnight last year.

For those planning to navigate the madness, here are a few tips, adapted from theblackfriday.com.

• Give preference to big-ticket items, which will save you the most money.

• Team up with shopping buddies to hit different stores and buy items for everyone in the group.

• Shop at stores with price-matching policies to avoid waiting in long lines at stores with the item on special. Make sure to bring the competitor's ad and confirm that the store honors price matching for Black Friday deals. Some of them don't.

Of course, the shopping frenzy doesn't start on Black Friday. Shoppers can get a head start at the Junior League of Tampa's ninth annual Holiday Gift Market this weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Old-timers will remember the league's Trinkets and Treasure Thrift Sale, a bargain hunter's paradise where shoppers stampeded the doors for unbelievable deals on baby goods, electronics and home accessories. In 2003, the league discontinued the fundraiser after 40 years because it became too costly and time consuming to pull off.

Many people mourned, but in its place rose the gift market, a fashionable event with more than 145 vendors selling clothing, jewelry, art, home goods and children's items — much of it unique or handmade. Upward of 10,000 shoppers attend each year.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Expo Hall, 4800 U.S. 301 N in Tampa. Admission is $8, plus $6 for parking. All net proceeds go to helping local children and families.

Get ready for even earlier Black Friday shopping hours 11/05/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 3:59pm]

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