Target is becoming the latest retailer to open earlier on Thanksgiving this year.
The Minneapolis-based discounter said it will open at 8 p.m. on the holiday, which falls on Nov. 28. That's an hour earlier than last year. Target stores will remain open throughout the night and close at 11 p.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29.
Kathee Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising at Target, told The Associated Press that she felt the 8 p.m. time was just right, based on the competitive landscape, and the sentiment among shoppers and its own store staff.
Target will also be offering hundreds of deals online on Thanksgiving morning that will include almost all deals that will be available in the store. In addition, the discounter said it will be feature 15 online-only daily discounts for two weeks beginning Sunday, Nov. 24.
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The goal is to allow customers to shop "however, whenever they want to shop," Tesija said.
Traditionally, the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, has been the kickoff to the holiday season, with stores opening at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m.
But over the past several years, retailers have pushed opening times earlier and earlier, and now on Thanksgiving itself. This year, Macy's, J.C. Penney, Kohl's and several others have announced plans to open Thanksgiving evening for the first time.
(Read more: Holiday shopping: Discount stores trail on Web)
Others, like Toys R Us and Best Buy, are opening earlier on Thanksgiving than last year. Toys R Us is set to open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, three hours earlier than last year. Best Buy plans to open at 6 p.m., six hours earlier than last year's midnight opening.
(Read more: The new holiday sales pattern)
The retailers say it's what customers want, but they are also trying to be the first to grab shoppers' dollars at a time when budgets are constrained. The stakes are high, since the holiday season accounts for anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of annual revenue.
There's also more pressure on retailers this year, because the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is six days shorter than in 2012.
Overall, the National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, expects an increase of 3.9 percent in holiday sales for the November-December period, up from 3.5 percent last year.
-By Associated Press.