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Thanksgiving Kicks Off an Estimated $586 Billion Holiday Shopping Season

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Plus, the price of Thanksgiving dinner stays relatively flat.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL In two days, many Americans will be eating turkey with the fixings and watching football. Thanksgiving has historically preceded Black Friday, when consumers' voracious appetites move from the dinner table to the shopping malls.

Thanksgiving Is the New Black...Friday

For many years, the holiday shopping frenzy started on the day after Thanksgiving, dubbed Black Friday. Recently, retailers have been taking an ever-larger slice out of Thursday. According to CNN, this year shopping will start earliest at Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Toys R Us, who open their doors at 8 p.m. local time -- earlier than they opened last year. Target (NYSE:TGT) opens at 9 p.m.

About.com provides a long list of retail stores that will also be open on Thanksgiving, many which will remain open all night and into Black Friday. Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD), The Gap (NYSE:GPS), Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO), Chico's (NYSE:CHS), Nike (NYSE:NKE), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), and Sony (NYSE:SNE) are among many stores that will have retail locations open at 9 p.m. on Thursday. Others like Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX), Tumi (NYSE:TUMI), Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (NASDAQ:RMCF), and Hot Topic (NASDAQ:HOTT) will raise their shutters at 10 p.m.

And what will consumers be buying as gifts for this year's holiday season?

Toys R Us's yearly Fabulous 15 list highlights the spending season's hottest toys. Among them are Nintendo's (PINK:NTDOY) Wii U, LeapFrog's (NYSE:LF) LeapPad2 Explorer, Mattel's (NASDAQ:MAT) Fisher-Price Jake and the Never Land Pirates Jake's Musical Pirate Ship Bucky, and Hasbro's (NASDAQ:HAS) revamped Furby doll.

(Are you as terrified about the return of Furby as I am? Learn all you can in The Most Annoying Toy of All Time Is Back!)

Time points out that two-thirds of the items on this list were priced above $50, with seven toys over $100. Most of the items on Wal-Mart's top toy list are above $50 as well.

One particularly interesting item on this list is the Tabeo, a 7-inch tablet developed by Toys R US specially for kids. Tabeo runs Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android OS, is preloaded with popular games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rug, and -- with a $159 price-tag -- it offers parents a fiscally less risky option than letting their small children play with their $330 Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad Minis.

Moving to grown-ups, let's take a look at Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) list of the most popular products ordered as gifts to see what will be stuffing this season's stockings. Amazon's own Kindle Fire HD is the most ordered item on the online shopping hub's electronics list, followed by Kindle Paperwhite, a product that has been plagued since its September release by shipping delays.

Online retailers have inevitably changed the nature of holiday shopping, as noted by AOL Daily Finance. Back in 2005, Shop.org, the e-commerce branch of the National Retail Federation, branded the start of the week following Black Friday as Cyber Monday. The online marketplace for holiday shopping thus became a lucrative venue for retailers -- so much so that this year, as more consumers are expected to do their Christmas shopping online, more retailers are offering the same Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday in-store deals simultaneously online.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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