Halloween just passed and it’s already beginning to look a lot like Christmas. A number of retailers have already revealed (or leaked) their Black Friday ads, and Target just announced for the first time that it will offer free shipping site-wide through December 20 in an attempt to level the playing field a bit with its biggest competitor, Amazon, in order to get more wallet share this holiday season. The National Retail Federation expects a 4.1 percent increase in holiday sales this year, with sales reaching upward of $616.9 billion to outpace last year’s 3.1 percent growth. And, even though there is a little more wiggle room in shoppers’ holiday budgets this year, they’ll still be hunting for those holiday bargains. According to a recent PwC study, 84 percent of consumers cited “best prices” as the main reason behind where they decide to purchase gifts, followed by “deals” as the second-most important factor. There’s good news for these bargain-hunting shoppers; they don’t even have to wait for Black Friday this year now that many stores are set to open even earlier on Thanksgiving Day. Shoppers who can’t resist door-buster deals on popular gift items will be lined up outside Kmart while their turkey is still in the oven for the retailer’s planned 8am opening. And, Macy’s, Best Buy and others will be opening at 6pm on Thanksgiving – before you’ve even had a chance to digest that annual slice of pumpkin pie. We anticipate a heavy promotional period in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. What was once a single sale day has extended throughout the weekend into its online counterpart, Cyber Monday, and now into Thanksgiving Day itself…and the weeks prior. So, is the whole notion of Black Friday dead (or at the very least starting to die)? In the past couple weeks alone, headlines such as, “Black Friday 2014: Thanksgiving Hours May Signal the End of Black Friday” and “Who needs Black Friday? Retailers already cutting prices” seem to indicate that this is a growing opinion. The holiday shopping season seems to be starting earlier, just when we thought it couldn’t be extended any further, thanks in large part to e-commerce. If you want to keep up with competitors and reel in shoppers early, you better be preparing your site early too.