SALT LAKE CITY — If it's mid-November, Thanksgiving must be right around the corner.
And when many Americans contemplate Thanksgiving, their thoughts soon stray from turkey, potatoes, stuffing and football to the prospects for their "Black Friday" shopping sprees.
That's right, it's time to break out your parkas and sleeping bags and warm up those credit cards. The holiday spending madness is about to begin.
For years, retailers have depended on the Christmas season to make their financial numbers, and the Friday after Thanksgiving is when they kick their efforts to attract shoppers into overdrive.
Last year, bundled up Utahns started lining up in the wee hours of the morning to make sure they would be ready to grab "door-buster" specials and outrageous holiday deals.
Based on the hype of the last few weeks, this year's holiday shopping season could be just as explosive at the start.
For example, NPR reports that Walmart is planning to open most of its stores at midnight Nov. 26 in an attempt to gain an advantage in the shopping wars. According to The Christian Science Monitor, the question is, "Will you shop all night?"
Sears is pushing even harder, announcing this year that it will open its stores for a while on Thanksgiving Day.
Meanwhile, Best Buy is touting discounts it is offering right now, and Target has announced its largest-ever free-shipping event for the holidays, as well as plans for its actual sales on the big day.
For traditionalists who love braving the cold and dark, but who want to get a jump on their planning, several websites offer what they claim are sneak peaks at the major retailers' advertising circulars, including bfads.net, BlackFriday.info, BlackFriday.com and TheBlackFriday.com.
If you'd rather sleep in on the day after Thanksgiving and recover from your turkey-induced stupor, you can always shop from the comfort of your own computer on Cyber Monday. And if you listen to the likes of amazon.com and overstock.com, you would think there's no reason to wait until Nov. 29 to start making your Web purchases.
Whether people shop in the marketplace or cyberspace, one thing is for sure: the nation's retailers will once again be eager to separate Americans from their money this holiday season.