Black Friday isn't a Friday deal anymore

Seems like "Grey Thursday" is the new Black Friday.

Several big-box retailers such as Macy's, JCPenney and destination shopping center Sawgrass Mills have announced an 8 p.m. Thanksgiving opening to kick off this season's holiday shopping.

Last year, Sawgrass opened an hour later, Macy's at midnight and JCPenney didn't let customers in till 6 a.m. Friday. Now, more and more retailers are opening earlier than ever in hopes of luring the most shoppers and trumping their competition.

A Florida Retail Federation spokesman says the earlier hours are a result of a "strong response" from shoppers.

"If you're willing to go out and spend money, there's a retailer who wants to be open," said John Fleming, spokesman for the state's trade group. "If your competitor opens early and you stay close, you lose those sales, and no retailer wants to lose sales. It's a competitive business."

But is 8 p.m. too early?

Fort Lauderdale resident Sonia Gayle doesn't think so.

"I think it's perfect time," said Gayle, 44. "Especially for those with kids or teenagers, that way they don't have to be out late at midnight."

Though she doesn't plan on braving the crowds at that time, Gayle said she knows several people who are already gearing up.

Diana Gonzalez, a fellow Lauderdale resident, isn't against the early opening either.

"You can enjoy time with your family every day of the week," said Gonzalez, 53, who three years ago camped out Office Depot and scored a $200 laptop, paying half the regular retail price. "This is a good opportunity to save money and you can go shopping together after eating dinner."

Not all agree.

Katy Ferrando believes the early openings are creeping in too close to Thanksgiving celebrations.

"That's crazy, it's too much," said Ferrando, who lives in Fort Lauderdale. "Thanksgiving should be sacred."

While some may not like it, opening times likely won't stop at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, said Barbara Wyckoff, a retail analyst with CLSA Americas.

"It's just going to get earlier and earlier," she said. "It will probably change an hour at a time. It all feeds into customers' desire for convenience.", 954-356-4526, Twitter @MiriamValverde

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