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November 17th, 2010Retail crunch time has begun

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by Joyce Smith

Waiting for Black Friday sales to start your holiday shopping? That’s so last decade.

If you haven’t already started, you’re already behind.

Black Friday — the traditional start of the holiday season on the day after Thanksgiving, and once the top shopping day of the year — is now more like the halfway point, analysts say.

Holiday promotions are coming before, during and after. Not necessarily more discounts or bigger discounts, but discounts more often as retailers try to drum in the idea that they are the place for holiday shopping. Among the retail promotions being rolled out this season are “flash sale” e-mail alerts, expanded free shipping offers and steep discounts on toys.

In another difficult year marked by persistently high unemployment, tight paychecks and an economy that’s been slow to recover, retailers are hoping to get their share — or more — of the sales during holiday crunch time.

“We’re seeing a new tradition being born right in front of our eyes,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the NPD Group market research firm. Retailers, he said, are “changing the dynamics …. an early showing to build momentum.”

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