The Lakewood Center Mall is festive in decor and with Santa Claus, ready for Black Friday, which is increasingly becoming Black Thursday.
The Lakewood Center Mall is festive in decor and with Santa Claus, ready for Black Friday, which is increasingly becoming Black Thursday. (Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer)

Black Friday's traditional start to the holiday shopping season is getting time-shifted like never before this year. Back to Monday, in fact, for at least one major outlet. That's when the Disney Store starts selling some Black Friday-priced merchandise online.

And Wal-Mart and Target are jumping into the Black Friday retail mosh pit within an hour of each other during prime time on Thanksgiving evening. "We're seeing kind of an evolution," said Paul Gainer, executive vice president of Global Disney Store, which refers to the day after Thanksgiving as Magical Friday. "I think the trend is changing where the holiday shopping season is starting earlier."

Not all shoppers are thrilled about hitting the stores with their bellies full of stuffing and their heads hazy with tryptophan.

The website blackfriday.com found that while retailers are rolling out deals earlier than ever, there is some blowback building among shoppers. Many of the site's 1.25 million Facebook followers have expressed unhappiness about the early Black Friday start.

"There is a lot of negative feedback about the early store openings," said Rob Woods, the company's marketing director. "This is kind of ruining the family event that is Thanksgiving dinner."

The early opening might be a sign retailers are worried about bad economic news later in the year so they want to capture sales now, he said.

A lot of the site's users plan to shop online and spend time with their family instead of wasting Thanksgiving standing in line at the store, he said.


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That's the plan for Van Nuys resident David Levy. He won't go near a mall until well after Black Friday has passed.

"I don't shop over the holidays," Levy said. "It's the worst time to shop. I don't want to do that; there's too much stress and I don't like the crowds. I go after New Year's when the prices are right."

Other retailers starting Black Friday early include Sears, Toys R Us, and Kmart opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Kohl's and Best Buy are opening at midnight.

Retailers at Lakewood Center Mall, 500 Lakewood Boulevard, are preparing for the expected rush of shoppers looking to find the best deals.

Macy's in Lakewood Mall will open at midnight Thanksgiving night. It is the second straight year that the store has opened on Thanksgiving night.

"Black Friday is a day dedicated to finding the best deals," said Peter Sachse, Macy's chief stores officer. "For the first time last year, Macy's stores nationwide opened at midnight and our customers loved getting a head start on their holiday shopping."

Blackfriday.com offers this advice: "The online portions of black Friday sales start very early (12:01 a.m. to 6a.m.) on Thanksgiving day. You can get almost everything except a few doorbusters online so get everything you can online, then you can decide if it's worth lining up and fighting the crowds for the items you can't get online."

There are some other new trends this year, too, according to Woods.

Retailers are having multiple doorbuster sales that begin at different times.

More people will shop using their cellphones or iPads.

People who go to stores will use cellphones and iPads to shop the competition while standing in line.

Even mall operators are tapping into social media networks and technology to capture shopper traffic.

Alan Cohen, executive vice president at Westfield Group, which has 10 mall properties in the Los Angeles area, said the company is embracing smartphone technology.

Last year the company rolled out a product search app that responds to voice or text commands. A shopper in a Westfield mall can request a product search and will be sent a map with directions to the right retailer.

"We have a million Facebook followers, and it's worked out really well," Cohen said.

Retailers seem to be doing a better job of promoting Black Friday every year, and extending the timeline is just part of that, said Dr. David Tolin, founder and director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at The Institute of Living, and an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine.

So this can be a dicey time for compulsive shoppers.

"Millions have been spent and teams of people have been dedicated to figuring out how to get money out of (our) wallets," Tolin said. "I like to think of myself as having self-control but it's going to be awfully hard for me to combat teams of experts and millions of dollars spent to separate me from my money."

He advises going out on Black Friday with a plan and a budget and sticking to them.

"People who tend to do well are the people who manage themselves well," he said. "The people who do less well are the people who wander around the mall looking for inspiration."

Black Friday has also gotten rougher over the years, too. For example, last year multiple shoppers got pepper-sprayed during a free-for-all at a Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch.

Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said that was an isolated incident.

"Obviously the safety of our customers and associates is always a top priority for us. We have prepared each of our 4,000 stores for Black Friday with a specific plan unique to each store to manage the crowds. We are confident our customers can look forward to a safe and enjoyable shopping experience at Wal-Mart," he said in an email.

Tolin's advice?

"I would say don't Mace anybody," he said.

The Black Friday experience is evolving, but it's not likely to vanish.

"There is no question that Black Friday is different, but it's not dead," said Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. "The tradition of Black Friday will never go away. It's been ingrained in our lives for too long."

greg.wilcox@dailynews.com

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APPY SHOPPING

For those participating in the Black Friday shopping frenzy - or for some stores, Black Thursday- some helpful apps that can eliminate some of the headaches and lead to the best sales.

Here are a few of the many that are available:

Black Friday by BradsDeals - A free download for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. This app shows customers early Black Friday ads for major stores so shoppers can plan their stops ahead of time. In addition, it will continuously update with hot and handpicked Black Friday deals.

Black Friday by FatWallet - A free download for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. This Black Friday deal finder provides a mobile search of all stores offering Black Friday sales. In addition, it will give the user the ability to save customized shopping lists from all major retailers' Black Friday ads.

Black Friday Ads - This iPhone app features a list of Black Friday stores and enables the user to make and manage Black Friday checklists.

ShopSavvy - A free download for Droid, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. This app allows shoppers to scan any product to get the best local and online prices. It also allows shoppers to add credit card information, which will allow for immediate purchase with the swipe of a finger.

Dealmap - A free download for Droid, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. The Dealmap is a deal-scouting app providing Black Friday sales closest to your location through local mapping, allowing shoppers to spend more time in the store than in the car.

Discount Calculator - A free Droid download that provides a calculator app that tells shoppers exactly what price they will pay for a discounted item. This app will even add the sales tax for the area you are shopping.

TGI Black Friday - A free download for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. This app will show shoppers two different views - Popular Deals and Newest Ads - and allow the shopper to sort by store, category or even by product. The shopper can then email deals to themselves or add them to My List.

PriceGrabber - A free download for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. This app will allow shoppers to comparison shop on their phones. The way it works: upload a picture of the barcode and then search by name or UPC and the app will provide information on the best, cheapest prices for both in store and shipping.

Amazon Mobile - A free download for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad will allow shoppers to quick search retail giant Amazon to see if there is a better deal on Amazon. It will also allow customers to read reviews or products.

Walmart My Holiday - A free download for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad that provides customers with the best deals at local Walmarts and allows customers to pick up items or have them shipped for free.

- Kelsey Duckett