Black Friday is becoming a month-long deal.
Amazon's sales began Nov. 20 and continue through Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving and what was once the start of the holiday shopping season. Target and Walmart are offering holiday discounts throughout the month, while Best Buy is holding "pre-Black Friday" weekends.
What was traditionally a single day of shopping already stretches over the weekend and now retailers are trying to extend the extravaganza even further by discounting goods long before the holiday. What that will mean to Black Friday sales is something analysts will be watching for.
"It remains to be seen how significant the event itself is," said Traci Gregorski, vice president of marketing at the retail research firm Market Track.
Tis the season for holiday sales and strategies for capturing shoppers dollars.
Black Friday spending was down last year, the second drop in a row, according to the National Retail Federation. Spending though the weekend in stores and online dropped 11 percent from $57.4 billion in 2013 to $50.9 billion last year. The decline is partly the result of the earlier bargains, leaving Black Friday with less of a punch.
This year, the Credit Union National Association and the Consumer Federal of America are expecting a 3 percent growth in spending, down from an earlier prediction of up to 3.5 percent. The new prediction is based on a recent survey.
But for all the debate over store hours -- and at one end is Kmart, open on Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m., and at the other REI, the outdoor gear supplier that will stay closed on Black Friday itself -- for shoppers the season means deals. They are scouting for the best prices before ever stepping inside a store, Gregorski said. They are driving competition among retailers who know their potential customers are online comparing ads.
“They do have a lot of information at their disposal, much more than they’ve ever had in the past,” she said.
On Friday, Tanya Jackson, a hair stylist from New Jersey, will be on the hunt for a washing machine and dryer at Home Depot where she expects to save $800.
“Oh yes, I already checked,” said Jackson, 42, who lives in Orange and who was making her way through New York City's Herald Square on a recent weekday morning. She is prepared to pay about $2,800.
Thanksgiving Day hours continue to court controversy, with some shoppers vowing to stay home and labor and other groups protesting the disruption to workers' holiday.
"l'm always with my family," said Kendall Castillo, a 19-year-old student studying theater and fine arts in college in New York City. Even the lure of good deals will not interrupt his holiday.
And Naysika Oree, a health-care consultant from the Bronx, has never shopped on Black Friday, turned off by the crowds and reports of unruly shoppers. She will stay home this year too.
"I'd rather just spend the couple of extra dollars then have to go through the madness," she said.
This year, the federation's preliminary Thanksgiving Weekend Survey found that an estimated 135.8 millions shoppers, or 58.7 percent of those surveyed, said they might head to the stores at some point over the weekend. The findings were similar to the year before, when 133.7 million holiday shoppers were in stores and online over the weekend.
Black Friday is expected to be the biggest shopping day for all age groups, but young adults in particular find Cyber Monday appealing, according to the survey's results. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 88.7 percent said yes or maybe when asked if they would should online on Monday. Among 25- to 34-year-old, the number was 90.9 percent.
Kate Winchester, a 23-year-old college student in New York City from Pennsylvania, will among those shopping online. She needs a new vacuum cleaner and a heavy blanket.
"You don't have to wait in the lines," she said.
Plus now that stores open on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday is "not as exciting anymore," she said. "No one wants to go out on Thursday."
To draw shoppers back into the stores, in the hopes that they will spend more money there, some retailers are offering special holiday events, Gregorski said. Wal-Mart for example is making the game Battlefront available to try out before its official launch.
"They’re introducing that experiential element into their promotions and events," she said. "It gives people a reason to come in."
As for what's hot this year, anything related to "Star Wars," game consoles and wearable technology, such as headphones and fitness trackers, she said. Drones are another top item.
Hoverboards, on the other hand, are not proving to be as popular as expected, likely because of their price, she said.
Other trends to watch for: exclusive partnerships between manufacturers and retailers and bundled offers, televisions and game consoles for example, which can make it difficult to determine how good a deal it is.
Milly Mladjenovic, 21, said she would definitely be out on Black Friday, shopping for work clothes and Christmas gifts.
"What am I not looking for?" she said.
The college student in New York City said deals could be found, but she thought bargains were better in years past.