We have hardly said goodbye to the ghosts and goblins of Halloween, but it's time to get primed for Christmas.

Target Corp. attempted to jump-start the holiday promotional blitz early Thursday by rolling out its Black Friday print and television advertisements with specials that started immediately.

Target and Walmart also announced they would equip store employees with handheld devices that will enable shoppers to skip the checkout lines and buy their merchandise right from the store aisles.

The Minneapolis-based retailer said it will open stores at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the Mall of America announced it will close for the holiday for the third year in a row, though anchor stores with separate entrances can open if they want.

With a mere three weeks until Black Friday, Sirius XM has launched holiday music channels, the Hallmark Channel has rolled out its stream of holiday movies and the nation's biggest retailers are jockeying to be the first, the flashiest and most fun.

As mass merchants such as Sears and Toys 'R' Us shutter stores, analysts expect retailers to get creative with discounts and store events hoping to pull people through their doors.

Consumer confidence is higher than its been in years, and shoppers are expected to spend an average of $638 on gifts this year, according to the National Retail Federation, a jump of 4.1 percent over last year. Online sales are expected to increase almost 15 percent, forecasts by Adobe Analytics show.

Like Target, Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Kohl's trumpeted a one-day-only Black Friday sales event on Thursday along with other holiday season deals. Walmart offered doorbuster deals in an "early-access pre-Black Friday sale."

Not to be outdone, Amazon revealed a holiday lineup that included four gift guides, movies and shipping deals on Christmas trees.

For years, the promotional buzz surrounding Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving shopping event devised by retailers decades ago as a ceremonial kickoff to the holiday shopping season — has inched back earlier in the calendar.

The name symbolized the day historically when merchants' profits turned positive for the year. Target and many other retailers make a third to half of their annual sales during the holiday gift-giving season.

Yet Black Friday, which this year falls on Nov. 23, has diminished in importance as shoppers have turned to the convenience of 24-hour online shopping.

Some retailers, such as REI, give their workers Black Friday off. Others have decided to stay closed on Thanksgiving, including Costco, H&M, Home Depot, Ikea, Nordstrom and Sam's Club, according to BestBlackFriday.com.

Officials at the Mall of America in Bloomington said that staying closed on Thanksgiving gives more energy to the day after, when it hands out gift cards and other goodies to those who gather for predawn shopping.

"We embrace our decision to remain closed on Thanksgiving and continue to welcome over 200,000 guests from around the world on Black Friday," Jill Renslow, the mall's senior vice president of marketing and business development, said in a statement.

Employees who work on Black Friday will receive holiday pay.

Richfield-based Best Buy has not yet announced its Black Friday promotions or store hours. The retailer has long been a favored camp-out spot for hard-core deal seekers on TVs, games and other consumer electronics.

Target's multipronged release of holiday-season deals and specials marks a strategy to plant flags early in the eyes of consumers. The retailer last week announced a free two-day holiday shipping offer for online orders that rival Walmart later matched.

The company is midway through a $7 billion overhaul of its operations that may face its biggest test this holiday. It includes investments in store remodels, backroom operations to make online and mobile shopping easier, and to ensure faster shipping and in-store pick up.

In addition to store hours and one-day sales, Target and Kohl's on Thursday also announced online-only deals, special perks for rewards members and credit card holders as well as other exclusive deals.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335