In many ways, Black Friday has become a term for the holiday shopping season, rather than just the Friday after Thanksgiving. Many major retailers have already kicked off their holiday sales, not even waiting until we've polished off our turkey and mashed potatoes.
Here's a look at the "Black Friday" promotions a number of big retailers are running, along with when they start. It can be tough for a shopper to keep them all straight, but some of these sales give you more time to shop and the chance to avoid the bargain-thirsty crowds on Black Friday itself.
While Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) has special events and sales all through the holiday season, it does plan to have a more traditional Black Friday event -- that is, if Black Friday deals beginning online at 12:01 a.m. on Thanksgiving can be considered "traditional." Wal-Mart's in-store Black Friday sale, meanwhile, will start at 6 p.m. on Turkey Day (though many stores will be open all day on the holiday).
Part of the reason the shopping holiday has become more than one day is that Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) never closes. It has also intentionally spread out the season by offering deals beginning on Nov. 1.
The online retailer has already opened its Black Friday store, with plans to release new deals each day through Christmas. It has some ongoing sales and some short-term offers each day, and it will have some actual Black Friday specials as well.
The big-box electronics retailer has already released some, but not all, of its Black Friday deals. Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) is sort of hedging its bets this holiday season: It kicked things off early, but it also plans to open stores at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving for deal-hunters. That's also the day when its special Black Friday deals will go live on its website.
Sears (NASDAQOTH:SHLDQ) can't afford to wait until Black Friday. The struggling retailer has already launched its Black Friday deals with the hope it can bring in some desperately needed cash. The company, which also owns Kmart, is calling its promotion the "Holiday Blowout." It began Nov. 1 and runs until Nov. 25, the day after Black Friday.
During the sale, the chain will offer discounts of up to 50% off at Sears and 20% to 40% off at Kmart. Most of the company's locations will be open on Thanksgiving, with Kmart stores opening at 6 a.m. and Sears stores following at 6 p.m. Stores will close as late as 2 a.m. and reopen as early as 5 a.m. on Black Friday -- you'll need to check with your local locations for details.
Like Best Buy, Target (NYSE:TGT) plans to open on Thanksgiving (at 6 p.m. in this case) and then close its doors at midnight. That's a change from years past when the chain stayed open straight through from Thursday until late Friday night. This year, the chain will reopen at 6 a.m. on Black Friday.
The company also has some early deals on its website, and it has offered an added incentive for shoppers: Anyone who spends $50 in stores or on Target.com on Black Friday itself gets a coupon for 20% off that can be redeemed between Nov. 28 and Dec. 10.
Another retailer that's blurring the lines of the holiday season, Kohl's (NYSE:KSS) plans to kick off its Black Friday sales online on Monday, Nov. 20. The chain will also be opening on Thanksgiving at 5 p.m. In addition, the chain is offering $15 in Kohl's Cash (essentially free money to spend on a future visit) for every $50 a customer spends from Nov. 20 through Nov. 25.
Another struggling brick-and-mortar chain, Macy's (NYSE:M) will offer Black Friday deals online all day on Thanksgiving. It will then open its stores on Thursday at 5 p.m. and keep them open until 2 a.m. that night. They will then reopen at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. The chain also plans to have some special deals from 6 a.m. through 1 p.m. on Black Friday itself and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.