Some retailers are offering perks to their earliest customers.
At Lodi Station Outlets, the first 150 people at 10 p.m. at the food court Thanksgiving night will receive a $15 gift card. The outlets open again at 7 a.m. Friday and are giving the first 350 people at 7 a.m. a free $15 gift card.
At Summit Mall, the first 250 people to register their email address at guest services will receive a "swag bag" full of goodies such as food samples, a sample of Diet Coke, water and retailer coupons, said Kate Miller, mall marketing manager.
There will also be a free "rejuvenation station" with free muffins, water, candy and coffee starting at midnight for Black Friday shoppers. Some food-court vendors at the mall will also be open at midnight.
Online shopping is expected to continue to grow.
Shop.org, part of the National Retail Federation, expects 2012 online sales in November and December to hit $92 billion to $96 billion. That's up 12 percent from a year ago. (Total holiday spending in 2011 hit $563 billion, according to the NRF.)
The organization said that last year people spent an estimated $1.25 billion on "Cyber Monday," the Monday after Thanksgiving. (Shop.org said it coined the term Cyber Monday in 2005.)
Online retailer Amazon has brought back its "Countdown to Black Friday Deals Week" promotions. It also just started offering a one-month free trial of its Amazon Prime service that costs $79 a year. Amazon Prime offers unlimited free two-day delivery on purchases and also competes with services such as Netflix by providing free access to tens of thousands of instant streaming movies and television shows.
C/NET, which reviews and rates all sorts of gadgets, gizmos and software in addition to covering technology-related news, has an online retail site, complete with a holiday gift guide.
Online news and sales sites are filling email inboxes with holiday sales promotions.
Big-box retailers also have been emailing Black Friday promotions, putting holiday advertising on their own websites and providing the promotional information to discount retail online sites such as dealnews.com.
Smart phones and tablets feature prominently in retailer plans to get you to spend money with them. Device apps have been created, tweaked and upgraded.
Walmart's upgraded smart phone app, for instance, will show you where items you want are located in a particular store.
Dealnews.com said the Walmart app will recognize when a shopper enters a particular store and display an interactive map. The app is supposed to be updated with Black Friday information on Nov. 19, Dealnews says.
Macy's Apple iPhone-only app has been updated to offer in-store Black Friday specials, including telling you where sale items can be found.
The website Appolicious lists and reviews Black Friday related apps for iPhone and Android owners. Some apps, for instance, use a smart phone's built-in camera to scan merchandise prices and the price compare against other stores in the area.
Keep in mind most brick-and-mortar retailers offer online shopping as well, in many cases with free shipping -- sometimes if a certain minimum purchase amount is made.
Retailers also are using social media sites Facebook and Twitter to woo shoppers.
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