It’s not your imagination if it seems like the holiday shopping push begins earlier each year.

Retailers have stretched the season, offering deals and price reductions the likes of which normally wouldn’t have been seen until Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the unofficial start of the commercial countdown to Christmas. Ornaments, lights and other decorations have been available for weeks, at first competing with Halloween and end-of-summer merchandise for shelf space.

Most Americans young and old alike are off on Thanksgiving and many the day after, creating an especially long weekend, and, considering the profit potential, businesses would be foolish not to try to attract this army of spenders. It’s holiday revenue, of course, that helps keep their doors open the rest of the year. 

And while it has become a tradition for some people to wait in lines, in the cold, for stores to open to take advantage of specials, earlier enticements and timed releases are changing the way customers approach gift grabbing.

Some stores are now open on Thanksgiving Day and draw substantial crowds, especially after tables have been cleared of turkeys and side dishes and slices of pumpkin pie have been served.

Online retailers have been targeting the masses, too, hoping to beat their brick-and-mortar counterparts to the marketing punch.

More than 154 million consumers shopped in stores and online on Black Friday last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Rest assured, there still will be plenty of Black Friday doorbusters and countless specials thereafter. The flat-screen TV that is going for $289 now may be had for less, say, the second week of December, but availability is far more important than price.

Local merchants are gearing up for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25, and owners and employees will be ready to greet shoppers and help them cross names off their lists of loved ones and friends for whom presents are needed.

While there’s a growing chorus of complaints about holiday celebrations becoming ever more commercial, the fact remains that capitalism is our way of life and cash registers as well as church bells ring in the season of giving.

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