Don’t look now, but Black Friday’s already begun.

Walmart and Best Buy are among the big retailers to unveil holiday deals Thursday on products like ultra-high-definition smart televisions, laptops and gaming consoles. Amazon.com is also touting its Black Friday discounts early, while Target will roll out offers on home decor and bedding this weekend.

The frenzy suggests the rules are changing as retailers prepare to battle for what could be the strongest holiday period in years — fueled by robust consumer confidence and low unemployment. Retail sales increased 6.1 percent in the week ending on Nov. 3, providing additional momentum for U.S. chains that are dangling free shipping and other enticements to grab bargain-seeking shoppers.

This year’s X factor is the demise of Toys “R” Us, which has put as much as $100 billion in sales up for grabs, according to Target. The bankruptcy of Sears Holding Corp. may create additional openings.

Holiday sales are seen increasing 5.8 percent this year and surpassing $1 trillion for the first time, researcher eMarketer says.

Black Friday in the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving, is the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.


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