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Frenzied Black Friday Ahead

Global economic crisis? Apparently, retailers didn’t get the memo.

Global economic crisis? Lingering recession? Apparently, retailers didn’t get the memo. They’re amping up shopping opportunities for Black Friday with aggressive incentives and promotions both online and in stores, which are opening earlier and staying open longer than ever before.

Many stores didn’t save their best deals for Black Friday, offering specials typically associated with the day after Thanksgiving, some as early as Halloween. Most projections are calling for a low-single-digit increase of 2 percent to 4 percent, which would mark the best holiday results in four years. MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse said sales of apparel from Oct. 31 to Nov. 13 rose 9.7 percent against the same period last year. This is on top of October’s 8.2 percent gain.

Kurt Salmon Associates said that while consumer confidence “remains shaky,” retail sales are expected to show a “modest increase through the holiday season.”

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is being aggressive, starting a three-day promotion on Monday of savings typically reserved for Black Friday. It advertised 150 online specials at walmart.com, three-times as many as last year, with savings of up to 40 percent on electronics, video games and toys among other categories. Wal-Mart said it will match the price of competitors’ ads on Black Friday and is offering free shipping on electronics as well as the majority of online specials available through the Site to Store program. Most Wal-Mart units will be open 24 hours on Thanksgiving Day, with Black Friday in-store specials kicking off at midnight and 5 a.m. Starting at midnight, Wal-Mart will provide entertainment and treats for customers.

Sam’s Club will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday for a members-only shopping event with a complimentary breakfast. Specially priced items include 0.5-carat diamond stud earrings for $299, a 42-inch Hitachi LCD HDTV for $498 and a Samsung Fascinate smartphone for under $1. Sam’s Web site and mobile apps will show the Special Buys of the Day.

Target for the first time held a four-day sale that began on Nov. 21 and runs through today. “We’ve had some pretty impressive results so far, especially on electronics, video games and iPads,” said a Target Corp. spokeswoman. “Consumers are stocking up on winter gear, especially footwear. The reality of winter is setting in.” While Target stores will be closed on Thanksgiving, opening at 4 a.m. Friday, an online Thanksgiving Day event, from midnight Wednesday to 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time Thursday, will offer up to 50 percent off select items.

Scott Birnbaum, senior vice president of marketing at Aéropostale Inc., said, “We have more doorbusters. This year 40 percent [of stores] are opening at midnight [compared with last year’s 15 percent] and about a dozen stores will be [open] on Thanksgiving Day.”

J.C. Penney is gearing up for the “largest Black Friday sales event” ever, said Steve Lawrence, co-chief merchant for J.C. Penney Co. Inc. The retailer will open its doors at 4 a.m. and will offer more than 300 doorbusters — the most in its history. Among the deals that will be offered include a 1-carat diamond pendant or bracelet for $79.99 to Arizona jeans at $12.99. Its mobile apps will feature Black Friday sales circulars and mobile coupons. On Cyber Monday, more than 40,000 deals will be on its Web site.

Doug Anmuth, Internet analyst for Barclays Capital, is projecting that online sales will account for 8 percent of holiday sales. And at least 80 percent of consumers are expected to do some shopping on the Internet.

Khajak Keledjian, Intermix co-founder and chief executive officer, said the online business is growing by double digits, and sales in stores are showing high-double-digit comp increases, which Keledjian attributes to pent-up consumer demand. Everything on the Web site will be reduced 15 percent on Cyber Monday.

Scoop is expecting double-digit comps for the period, thanks to promotions such as Shop More Save More, an event where spending and savings increase proportionally. Susan Davidson, president and ceo, said, “Our inventories are significantly more current,” she said. “Last year we were still closing out spring.”