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Sears Open on Thanksgiving for First Time in 85-Year History

Friday, 5 Nov 2010 | 2:01 PM ET

Why wait for Black Friday? Searsisn't.

The retailer will open its Sears stores from 7 a.m. until noon on Thanksgiving, according a leaked circular obtained by CNBC.com.

This would mark the first time Sears will be open during the holiday in the 85 years it has operated retail locations. (Sears operated as a catalog company before that.)

By contrast, Kmart, which is also a unit of Sears Holdings , has been opening on Thanksgiving for nearly two decades.

"We made the decision, based on our customers' desire to shop for great values, to open Sears' stores on Thanksgiving," the company said in an email.

The Sears schedule will be limited to the morning hours in order to balance the needs of its customers and its workers, Sears said.

"Black Friday," as the day after Thanksgiving is often called, is known for its "doorbuster" deals and bargain-hungry crowds, but a shift is going on to bring discounts to shoppers earlier and earlier each year.

And for good reason: Many holiday surveys have found consumers are planning to spend cautiously this holiday season, and will be hunting for bargains.

For example, a recent survey from retail consultants AlixPartners found 85 percent of Americans reported that they planned to spend the same or less this holiday season. This trend was particularly pronounced among Baby Boomers. About 14 percent of Baby Boomers plan to spend less on gifts this year.

While many people are planning to reach that goal by spending less on each person on their gift list, about 60 percent of people said they would wait for sales or specials, according to the survey.

Shoppers haven't had to wait long for good deals. Many retailers, including Sears, have already begun "Black Friday"-style discounting.

Walmart for example, announced Friday that it cut the price on more than 1,500 holiday toys so far this season, with savings of as much as 30 percent on popular toy brands. This mean popular toys such as Mattel's Sing-a-Ma-Jigs are now selling for $9 each, down $3 from their prior price, while Hasbro's Fur Real Go Go is priced at $44.88, down $4.12 from before. The savings become more impressive for higher ticket items such as the Barbie Jammin Jeep, which has been marked down $21 to $228.

Retailers know that shoppers will be budgeting their spending this holiday season, and the best way to capture those limited dollars is to get customers in the door as early as possible.

Based on the Sears flyer, shoppers who use a Sears credit card will get an extra 5 percent discount storewide. There also is an incentive for customers who spend $100 or more in the tool department. They will receive a $10 award card.

But some of the other discounts are attractive. Covington cotton sweaters for men will be marked down to $8.99 from a regular price of $42.00. Women's jewelry will be discounted by as much as 60 percent. A 58-inch Panasonic plasma TV, with 2 bonus Blu-Ray DVDs will be sold for $1,099, a savings of $744.98.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

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