No need to set the alarm to hit the stores on Black Friday morning -- Target announced Monday that it will open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
It's three hours earlier than the retailer opened most of its stores last year, but not as early as Wal-Mart and Sears, which will open at 8 p.m.
Black Friday creep has been advancing since the recession as stores moved up their openings to midnight and now Thanksgiving Day.
Kathee Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising at Target, said the Minneapolis-based retailer's customers look forward to getting a jump on their deal-shopping.
The earlier opening on Thanksgiving "gives guests a more convenient way to create an after-dinner shopping event that the entire family can enjoy," she said.
Stores are opening earlier mostly for a competitive advantage, said Burt Flickinger, president of Strategic Resource Group in New York City. "They're putting pressure on retailers such as Best Buy and J.C. Penney that open later," Flickinger said.
Last year, bargain hunters planned a strategy of starting at stores that opened at 10 p.m., midnight, 2 a.m and 4 a.m. Retailers such as Target now are combatting that strategy by adding on-the-hour door-busters throughout the night to keep shoppers in the stores longer and get them to spend more money.
Target has a number of items that won't go on sale until 4 a.m., including a Samsung 50-inch LED TV for $699 and a Fisher-Price Doodle-Pro Classic for $10, which will be available in limited quantities at stores.
Not everyone likes the extended hours. Last year, more than 100,000 consumers signed a petition at Change.org asking Target not to open at midnight and to switch back to 5 a.m. on Friday to allow employees to spend more time with their families.
Flickinger said the early openings are an example of retailers giving shoppers something they really didn't ask for, given the crowds and long lines that come with Black Friday.
He acknowledged that many families did shop early together last year at Wal-Mart and Target.
"Many of them ended up spending multiple hours for one item like a 32-inch TV," he said. That meant two hours in line before the store opened, an hour shopping, an hour or two checking out, and more time leaving the parking lot.
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633