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“I think it’s better earlier. People are crazier later at midnight,” said Renee Ruhl, 52, a hotel worker, at a Target store in Orlando, Florida, where she was already heading to her car with an air hockey game in her shopping cart 2-1/2 hours before the chain opened last year.
Others were not as happy with an earlier Black Friday.
A petition asking Target to “save Thanksgiving” had 371,606 supporters as of Thursday afternoon..
Some workers used the day to send a message.
OUR Walmart - a coalition of current and former Wal-Mart staff seeking better wages, benefits and working conditions - has staged months of protests outside stores and targeted “Black Friday” for action across the country.
The stakes are high for U.S. retailers, who can earn more than one-third of their annual sales during the holiday season, which generally starts with Black Friday.
The National Retail Federation said 147 million people would shop Friday through Sunday, when deals are at their most eye-catching - down from 152 million the same weekend last year.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s U.S. discount stores, which have been open on Thanksgiving since 1988, offered some “Black Friday” deals at 8 p.m. on Thursday and special deals on certain electronics, like Apple Inc iPads, at 10 p.m.
The earlier hours lured people who had not braved the crowds before on Black Friday, said Jason Buechel, a senior executive in the retail practice of consultancy Accenture, in observing mall activity.
Retailers also made things more orderly.