Best Buy will open its doors on Thanksgiving at 6 p.m., moving the start of the traditional Black Friday shopping binge even deeper into the holiday itself.

The Richfield-based consumer electronics giant joins a growing number of major retailers drawing in consumers to shop on Thanksgiving, just hours ahead of what is traditionally considered the biggest shopping day of the year.

In its announcement Friday, Best Buy said its Thanksgiving schedule was a response to building consumer demand. "Last year, millions of people made it clear that they wanted to shop on Thanksgiving evening," the company said.

But the 6 p.m. start marks a new threshold, ahead of the 8 p.m. openings that Macy's, Sears and others have planned. Meanwhile, the two largest U.S. retailers, Wal-Mart and Minneapolis-based Target, have yet to announce their Thanksgiving hours. They opened at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively last year.

With its earlier Thanksgiving start, Best Buy is adapting after opening later than many other retailers did a year ago, said Brian Yarbrough, an analyst with Edward Jones.

"Last year, Best Buy opened at midnight on Black Friday, and [its] domestic same store sales were flat," Yarbrough said. "This year, they're going to be first rather than miss out on sales."

Best Buy and other retailers have been forced to open their doors on Thanksgiving by competitive pressure from online retailers, as well as other bricks and mortar stores that are pushing their "Black Friday" into the holiday itself. Analysts such as Yarbrough predict that within five years, Thanksgiving may be "just another shopping day."

So far, Toys 'R' Us, Macy's, J.C. Penney, Kohl's, Sears and some smaller chains have said they will be open on Thanksgiving evening. Kmart has staked out the earliest opening of the bunch, throwing open its doors at 6 a.m.

Best Buy's 6 p.m. start gives it a two-hour jump on many big-name national retailers.

"It makes sense from a consumer behavior and a socialization standpoint," said David Brennan, the co-director of the University of St. Thomas' Institute for Retailing Excellence. "You finish the Thanksgiving dinner and the women get ready to go out and shop. Now the guys get to go to Best Buy."

Best Buy acknowledged that opening earlier would impact the holiday of thousands of its workers around the country. But the company said in its statement that much of the internal feedback it has received "reflects our collective desire to serve customers and have a successful holiday."

The retailer will tempt shoppers with doorbusters on Thanksgiving night as well as Black Friday, so named because it is reputedly the day that many retailers turn profitable for the year.

About 13 percent of U.S. consumers plan to shop on Thanksgiving this year, according to a recent poll from the International Council of Shopping Centers.

"The expansion of the Thanksgiving bargain-shopping days to include Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday has transformed this period, with more intensive shopping planned for Black Friday this year than at any time since at least 2009, when the survey began," said Michael Niemira, the group's chief economist.

Analysts say retailers are eager to expand their shopping options because the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is six days shorter than in 2012. That means every day counts, as the holiday shopping season can bring in 20 to 40 percent of annual sales.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335 •

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 •