After weeks of "Black Friday" sales pitches, the real thing is finally here.
Retailers are ushering in the traditional kickoff of the U.S. holiday shopping season on Friday with expanded hours, deep discounts and online deals to draw bargain-hungry shoppers.
In a bid to grab shoppers earlier, a number of stores including Old Navy, Toys R Us and Sears opened on Thanksgiving Day. Toys R Us was counting on getting an extra boost by opening 24 hours straight, starting at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
The crescendo follows a weeks-long push to woo shoppers. Many stores had trotted out the "Black Friday" label on sales as far back as October.
And the wooing just might work—among Latino shoppers, at least. A mid-November survey by International Council of Shopping Centers showed that a full 51 percent of Hispanic households expected to hit Black Friday sales, versus 31 percent of households overall.
Retailers are hoping to capture others' dollars online. Wal-Mart and Target were among a gaggle of retailers that dramatically stepped up deals on their websites Thursday, hoping to lure online shoppers stuffed with turkey.
The fierce battle for shoppers' wallets promises savings for those willing and able to buy amid an economy that's still worrying many.
"It's a dogfight between retail companies," said Chris Donnelly, a senior executive in consulting group Accenture's retail practice. "This year is the first time that there's a little more money in the marketplace so they're being more aggressive about getting the last dollar. At the end of the day, they're going to outweigh people who are pulling back."
Still, nearly 15 million are unemployed, and concerns about job security still cloud consumer confidence. Spending may be picking up but has not returned to pre-recession levels.
So, retailers are pushing deals on basics as well as offering discounts on more deluxe items, from bigger flat-panel TVs to more elaborate play sets.
Kohl's, which planned to open at 3 a.m. Friday, one hour earlier than a year ago, is promoting diamond bracelets and diamonds heart pendants for $99 each, down from $500 or $575. The store is also offering 50 percent off all toys.
Thanksgiving weekend is huge for retailers. In recent years, Black Friday has been the busiest shopping day of the year, according to data from research firm ShopperTrak. But it doesn't necessarily provide a complete forecast of holiday sales. In fact, shoppers seem to be procrastinating more every year, so the fate of the holiday season is increasingly down to the last few days.
With reporting by The Associated Press