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Be prepared: Black Friday week is coming

Courtesy of Macy’s/Associated Press

Starting Nov. 15, customers will be able to view Black Friday specials on their mobile device, create personal shopping lists they can edit and share. Macy’s customers also will be sent notifications about unadvertised specials while they’re in the store on Black Friday.

By ANNE D’INNOCENZIO
AP Retail Writer

NEW YORK – Get ready for Black Friday week.

Stores are making a big push to lure bargain-hungry shoppers before the Friday after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. They are putting on special sales that further creep into Turkey Day – and earlier.

For the first time, Disney Stores, Sears and Kohl’s are among the stores offering at least some of the same Black Friday deals to customers a few days before Black Friday.

“It’s no longer Christmas creep. It’s Christmas crush,” said Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at NPD Inc., a market-research firm, referring to the bevy of Black Friday deals that shoppers will be able to buy earlier that week.

Many are also targeting smartphone shoppers with apps that make it easier to shop the deals. Macy’s shoppers using the department store chain’s new Black Friday app will even get alerted to special unadvertised deals while they’re in line at the store.

But don’t get caught up in the shopping madness. A smart and measured approach to buying will preserve your holiday budget.

“You need to keep your wits about you,” said Jodi Furman, author of a blog called Livefabuless.com. “You can’t allow the urgency and overwhelming excitement to carry you away. “

Here’s how to do Black Friday the smart way:

Research and compare prices: You should start mapping out a strategy now. Make a list of what you want and how much you want to spend. Check out decide.com, which uses data to help you decide the best time to buy a certain product.

A bevy of websites already have posted stores’ Black Friday deals. Check out sites like bradsdeals.com and the blackfriday.com, which list hours and circulars for the holiday weekend.

Use social media: Follow your favorite stores’ Twitter feeds and click the “Like” button on their Facebook pages. Stores will use their social networks to update shoppers on deals and store hours, says Carey Rossi, editor-in-chief of ConsumerSearch.com. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, unveiled its Black Friday deals on Walmart.com, its Facebook wall and mobile app on Thursday. Those who sign up to get email, download the app or “Like” its Facebook page will be among the first to get early access to special Black Friday store items to buy online and via the mobile app.

Meanwhile, Kohl’s Facebook fans will receive exclusive savings during the holidays through Friday flash sales.

Spread out the shopping: The hoopla isn’t limited to just Black Friday anymore. It’s further creeping into Thanksgiving, which falls on Nov. 22. But what’s new this year is that a number of stores are now allowing shoppers to actually buy the early-bird specials even earlier in the week.

Macy’s, Kohl’s Co. and Best Buy Co. will open again at midnight after Thanksgiving. For the first time, department store chain Lord & Taylor is opening on Thanksgiving, starting at 10 a.m. New this year at Kohl’s: Its online shoppers will be able to buy all early-morning specials Nov. 21, and, like last year, all day on Thanksgiving.

Sears Holdings Corp. said its Sears stores will open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving and will stay open overnight until 10 p.m. Friday. For the first time, Sears will allow members of its free loyalty club called Shop Your Way to buy some of the early-bird specials online as early as Nov. 18.

Wal-Mart will start its first Black Friday sale at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year. It then will have two more rounds of sales events, including a 10 p.m. sale on electronics and another sale at 5 a.m.

Wal-Mart is also guaranteeing shoppers that it will have three of the most popular items if they are in line inside the store between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The three: an Apple iPad 2 with Wi-Fi plus a $75 Wal-Mart gift card for $399; an Emerson 32-inch LCD TV for $148 and an LG Blu-ray player for $38.

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