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Sears targets holiday shoppers with early Black Friday sales

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Amy Sancetta/AP/File

(Read caption) Last year, holiday sales dropped 3.8 percent despite big crowds like this one at a Black Friday sale at a Target store in Aurora, Ohio.

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Retailers are adopting the adage of American political strategists: Stretch out the season and people will come.

It hasn't worked very well among voters (turnout has tended to fall as campaigns have lengthened). The retail industry is about to find out whether it works any better among shoppers.

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The latest stretch: Sears announced Wednesday that it's offering "Black Friday Now" deals, starting this weekend.

Never mind that "Black Friday" traditionally refers to the heavily shopped Friday after Thanksgiving. Ignore the fact that "Black Friday Now" will actually happen mostly on Saturdays. It's the deals that count.

And these could be fetching: 50 percent off a Craftsman 302-piece mechanic's tool set and DieHard work boots; 70 percent off diamond stud earrings. Click here for a look at more deals.

Will that be enough to draw shoppers in – and, more importantly, their pocketbooks out?

Many analysts doubt it. Consumer confidence this month fell unexpectedly for the second month in a row, dampening prospects for spending. On Thursday, the Center for Education and Research in Retailing at Indiana University forecast that holiday sales will fall 1 percent, in line with an earlier forecast from the National Retail Federation.

That's better than last year's 3.8 percent drop, but it still forces retailers to get creative and drop prices.

Target, for example, is promising the "lowest prices ever" for its two-day Black Friday event. That, at least, will be held at the traditional time, but the retailer promises shoppers can preview the deals with its weekly online ad and even sign up for online reminders to get the ad.

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Expect more Black Friday deals. It's never too soon (sigh) to shop for Christmas.
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