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Christine McCoy plans to shop on Thanksgiving evening and wake up at 5 a.m. on Black Friday to hit the stores again with a couple of friends.

The 23-year-old Baltimore resident said she will likely go to Target, Wal-Mart and Towson Town Center to score toys for her 8-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. She's also looking for flat-screen televisions.

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"You're saving and it's actually kind of fun," McCoy said. "You can't beat the prices at all."

More than any other generation, millennials like McCoy are expected to turn out in droves to malls and shopping centers after Thanksgiving dinner for the early kick-off of Black Friday holiday shopping.

People in this generation, which came of age around the turn of the millennium and range in age from 18 to about 35, are far more likely to want to shop on Thanksgiving Day and on Black Friday than older age groups, according to several recent surveys and retail observers. Since they grew up with the Internet, they're more likely to scope out deals or shop online before hitting brick-and-mortar stores. And while other age groups spend more money overall between Black Friday and Christmas, millennials are expected to dominate spending on the traditional holiday shopping day.

"The boomer owns Christmas, but the millennial owns Black Friday," said Marshal Cohen, the chief industry analyst for the market research firm NPD Group. "For the younger millennials, it's the perfect excuse to go out late at night and meet up with friends, in some cases have parents pay for it. The older millennials enjoy it because its one of the few times they're able to go out and socialize with shopping and save a lot of money because they are often strapped for cash. This is like the millennial super holiday."

Market research company Ipsos, in a national survey for Offers.com, found that two-thirds of 18- to 34-year-olds plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day in the stores or online, compared with 51 percent of 35- to 54-year-olds and just 30 percent of those over age 55. Customer loyalty firm LoyaltyOne found in a survey that about half of those ages 18 to 34 called all-day shopping on Thanksgiving a great idea.

A survey for mall owner Simon Property Group found that two-thirds of millennials plan to shop on Black Friday. The survey also found 89 percent of millennials planned to shop at the mall during the season, with many of those agreeing that shopping for gifts in person helps them avoid the risk of delayed deliveries.

"Clearly we're seeing that the millennials are smart shoppers," said Gene Condon, general manager of Arundel Mills mall in Hanover. "They are doing their research, and ultimately they are wanting to touch and feel the items. The malls provide a great opportunity for them."

Until several years ago, Thanksgiving was sacrosanct as a day for feasting with family and friends. But throughout the early 2000s, stores opened earlier and earlier on Black Friday as they vied to attract consumer's dollars. The openings held at midnight until a few years ago, when some retailers began opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Stores opening on the holiday include Macy's, Target, Toys "R" Us, Kohl's, JCPenney and Best Buy, while most Wal-Marts and Kmarts will remain open the whole day.

"A large portion of our customers are millennials, and we are working hard to make sure we're where millennials are and giving them the experience they're looking for," said Molly Blakeman, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

The era of shopping on Thanksgiving has brought some backlash, with many pledging to boycott shopping on the holiday, often out of sympathy for the workers. And when asked whether stores should close on Thanksgiving "so that employees can enjoy time with their friends and family," 77 percent of those ages 18 to 39 said yes, according to a survey by the social networking app company Skout.

Some millennials were skeptical that those in their age group were more likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Taylor Sadarananda, 21, said she prefers to shop online at stores like Etsy, the handmade and vintage products store, because she can find more meaningful and personal gifts. She doesn't plan to hit the stores this weekend and didn't know anyone her age who will.

"It's annoying to wait in long lines. Why do that when you can go online?" said Sadarananda, of Hunt Valley. "I feel like the older crowd is the people who go out, the older moms. We just don't have the time."

There are many reasons why millennials are a sought-after age group for retailers. They're the largest age demographic, with an estimated 80 million consumers between 18 and 35 nationwide. They spend $200 billion a year.

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Nearly 90 percent of millennials said they had made an impulse purchase, according to a national survey for CreditCards.com, compared with 56 percent of seniors.

"The broader millennial group ... has the most disposable income of any group out there," said John Talbott, the associate director of the Center for Education and Research in Retailing at Indiana University. "As millennials go, so go the rest of the purchases. They're a trend-setting group."

Talbott said holiday shopping for millennials is "entertainment" and a chance to socialize.

"It makes perfect sense," he said, "they've been with the family all week and they're ready to get out there are have some fun."

Patrick Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, said retailers are trying to adjust to a demographic that is savvy about deals because they research ahead of time online. For instance, a customer who saw a television priced at $350 online is unlikely to walk into a store and buy the same TV for $600, he said.

"In yesterday's world, retailers had to know what everybody in their trading area — which could have been a 15-mile area around their store — were selling their products at," Donoho said. "Now that universe is stretched global. You're not just competing against the guy across the street, you're competing against the world, which makes it more difficult."

Donoho said millennials were less likely to buy purchases with credit than other age groups, and said they were more likely to buy electronics as their big-ticket items than high-end jewelry. Though millennials often prefer to shop online, he said, the appeal of going to a brick-and-mortar store has not diminished.

"I think a lot of it's tactile, meaning that people like to touch things before they buy them," he said. "I think they also like to have the human interaction. The shopping experience is different in the store than it is online, and I think consumers respond to that."

Stephanie Miller, a 34-year-old teacher from Abingdon, said she plans to wake up as early as 4 a.m. Friday and hit a few stores — likely Kohl's, Toys "R" Us and Target — and return with her holiday gifts before her two children are awake. Her 7-year-old son, Mason, is into sports-related gifts, while her 5-year-old daughter, Gianna, "wants anything American Girl and Barbie."

Miller said she likes to get out of the house and, as a busy mom, enjoys knocking out all her shopping in one fell swoop. She's not sure why people her age are more likely to want to shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, but suspects it could have to do with packed schedules and a shift in the way the holiday is perceived.

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"When I was younger, traditions were so important and Thanksgiving was more of a family time," Miller said. "Now, it's not less meaningful, but being an adult I feel like I have more on my plate. My husband and I have full-time jobs, so this is one time when I can get it done."

Note: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect name for Stephanie Miller's son. It has been corrected here.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lorraine Mirabella contributed to this article.

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