Black Friday starts on Thursday for some

November 26, 2009 (CHICAGO) They're getting the jump on the search for big discounts that traditionally start on the day after Thanksgiving.

With the weak economy, stores opened on this holiday trying to boost their bottom line.

Shoppers had been out in force all day. Thursday evening, most stores were closing, with the exception of Walmart, which will stay open all night.

For some hardcore shoppers, Thanksgiving dinner looked different Thursday. Camping in the parking lot of Bass Pro Shops, discount seekers traded the turkey and mashed potatoes for hot chocolate and s'mores, as they await the 6:00 a.m. store opening Friday morning.

In these financial times, some retailers aren't waiting for Black Friday to roll out the sales.

Hundreds packed the Bolingbrook Meijer shop from midnight to 6 a.m. Thursday morning.

"We were running late I was afraid everything would be gone…, but I made it for the iPod. I missed the laptop, but there is still tomorrow," Prentella Patterson said.

Hoping to avoid the stampedes that sometimes accompany Black Friday shopping this year, stores are playing it smart. Meijer organized shoppers in lines according to what they were looking for, while Kmart used a claim ticket system for several of the hot electronics on sale. But what's up with shopping on Thanksgiving. Shouldn't people be at home, cooking?

"You kind of have to pick which stores to shop at because each has such long lines. This way we can get our shopping done here and have more time at other stores tomorrow," Sara Bonert said.

And if it works, why not? The Gap store on Michigan Avenue is just one of 80 nationwide that are open this Thanksgiving Day.

"We were open last year and we had such a positive response from our customers that we decided to open again this year... We know that our customers want to get a jumpstart on holiday shopping so they can get the Black Friday specials today, a day earlier," said Darcie Hall, Gap Store Manager.

Still, in light of the dismal shopping season last year, retailers aren't taking any chances. Many are cutting down on inventory rather than end up with stacks of unsold merchandise.

"It's very important that the customer buys it early at these deals, or the merchandise might not be left as we get further into the season," said Laurie Wachs, Retail Analyst.

At Toys'R'Us, the popular toys seemed to be the Zhu Zhu hamster, a Leapfrog toy and the iPod tough, which if you buy it for $200 you get a $50 gift card.

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