Bargain hunters enter Macy's just after midnight on Black Friday on November 25, 2011 in New York City.
Bargain hunters enter Macy's just after midnight on Black Friday on November 25, 2011 in New York City. - 
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Used to be, opening at midnight on Thanksgiving was considered radical. Now, it’s rather quaint. This year, the big-box stores are betting consumers are willing to trade drumsticks for Thanksgiving Day doorbusters.

Clementine Illanes, a retail strategist at Kurt Salmon, says, “And this year you’ve got retailers like Sears, Target, Toys 'R' Us, Walmart, that are all opening around 8 or 9 p.m."

Illanes says retailers like the free publicity they get by opening early on Thanksgiving. They hope that’ll convince those of us who aren’t shopping today to come in later. And this isn’t expected to be a stellar holiday shopping season. So, Illanes says stores have to compete fiercely for all the sales they can get. 

“If your direct competitor is opening up early and you really want to get the sale, then that’s one way to do it," she says.

So who are these early shoppers, anyway? I hit the streets of downtown Washington to find some. It didn’t take long. The first person I talked to was 29-year-old Sparkle Canady. That is her real name, and she’s living up to it. Glowing with excitement about shopping tonight.

“I’m going to K-Mart first, and from there I’ll probably go to the midnight sales at the mall, and then I’ll probably go to Target, Walmart," she says. "Then I’ll go home and probably shop online a little, too.”

Canady is a retailer’s dream. She’s also the perfect demographic. In fact, she’s another reason stores are opening on Thanksgiving. They’re trying to attract the 20-something shopper who hates getting up early, and wouldn’t dream of lining up to get into stores at 5 a.m. on Friday. 

So, will the turkey day shopping hours give retailers a big boost? Nikoleta Panteva is a senior retail analyst with IBISWorld. She says Thanksgiving will just cannibalize sales from Black Friday and the weekend. 

“Sales are just going to shift a little bit earlier," she says. "But it’s unlikely that it’ll boost the entire weekend sales overall.”

In fact, IBISWorld is predicting that Thanksgiving weekend sales will only be 2.8 percent higher than last year. 

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