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June 28, 2017

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Happy holidays! Now let's go Christmas shopping

For decades, U.S. stores have opened their doors for Christmas shopping early on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday. But this year, major chains such as Target ushered customers in on Thanksgiving itself, turning the country's busiest shopping day of the year into a two-day affair.

Despite an outcry from some employees, both stores and shoppers seemed to like it. Some people went straight from the dinner table to the stores.

"I ate my turkey dinner and came right here," said Rasheed Ali, a college student in New York City who bought a TV for US$349 and a sewing machine for US$50 when Target opened at 9 p.m. "Then I'm going home and eating more."

This new approach could become a holiday tradition.

"This is going to be a new normal of how we shop," said Jackie Fernandez, a retail expert at the consulting firm Deloitte.

It won't be clear for a few days how many shoppers took advantage of the Thanksgiving hours. But about 17 percent of people said earlier this month that they planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers.

Meanwhile, 33 percent intended to shop on Black Friday, down 1 percentage point from last year. Overall, it is estimated that sales on Black Friday — called that because it's the day that stores traditionally move into making a profit for the year — will be up 3.8 percent to US$11.4 billion this year, according to technology company ShopperTrak. It did not forecast sales from Thanksgiving Day.

The shift began in earnest a few years ago, when stores realized that sales alone weren't enough to lure shoppers, especially with Americans becoming more comfortable buying things online. Opening on Thanksgiving was risky, with some employees and shoppers saying it was almost sacrilegious.

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