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Thanksgiving now a Black Friday 'prequel'? Big deals begin Thursday.

To lure Americans away from the Thanksgiving table and into the Black Friday shopping frenzy, US retailers are offering some delectable early-bird specials. 

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Shoppers are seen outside of FAO Schwarz in New York on Monday. Many US retailers are bringing Black Friday – the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season – forward to Thursday night.

Bebeto Matthews/AP

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Thanksgiving diners apparently can’t drop their drumsticks and go shopping fast enough to please US retailers.

Many merchants are bringing Black Friday – the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season – forward to Thursday night. The early start is expected to increase weekend sales, a relief for retailers faced with yearly declines in consumer spending and other signs of continued economic distress.

“This is the fourth holiday season with recessionary factors still looming in the background … which means [retailers are] pushing promotions and consumer excitement and interest as early as they possibly can,” says Laura Gurski, director of global retail practice at A.T. Kearney, a global consulting firm based in Chicago.

Despite the front-loading of store hours, the traditional Black Friday will continue to dominate sales – 66 percent of this weekend’s likely shoppers say they plan to shop that day compared with 17 percent expected to start Thursday, according to a survey conducted by the international consulting firm Deloitte.

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