The ultimate Black Friday survival guide

Let the annual holiday shopping deals begin, with your one-stop shopping guide to Black Friday 2012.

Stores are making a big push to lure in bargain-hungry shoppers before the Friday after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. They are putting on special sales that further creep into Turkey Day - and earlier.

For the first time, Disney Stores, Sears and Kohl's are among the stores offering at least some of the same Black Friday deals to customers a few days before Black Friday.

"It's no longer Christmas creep. It's Christmas crush," said Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at NPD Inc., a market research firm, referring to the bevy of Black Friday deals that shoppers will be able to buy earlier that week.

STORES OPEN EARLIER: Major store chains will open even earlier than previous years, with some planning to open on Thanksgiving Day.

Walmart said last week it will begin its holiday sale at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than last year. It then will have two more rounds of sales events including a 10 p.m. sale on electronics and another sale at 5 a.m. the next day.

Sears stores will open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and will stay open overnight until 10:00 p.m. Friday. Last year Sears stores were closed on Thanksgiving. The company's Kmart stores have been open on Thanksgiving for years.

Toys R Us also opens at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, with "doorbuster sale prices" Thursday night and a separate sale on Saturday.

Target stores will open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, three hours earlier than a year ago, to kick off the holiday shopping season.

Other major retail chains including Best Buy, Kohl's, Macy's and Sports Authority will again throw open their doors at midnight, following Thanksgiving.

JCPenney opens at 6 a.m. Friday.

Here's how to do Black Friday the smart way:

RESEARCH THE DEALS AND COMPARE PRICES: With Thanksgiving two weeks away, you should start mapping out a strategy now. Make a list of what you want and how much you want to spend. Check out decide.com , which uses data to help you decide the best time to buy a certain product.

A bevy of websites already have posted stores' Black Friday deals. Check out sites like bradsdeals.com and the blackfriday.com that list hours and circulars for the holiday weekend. We'll continue to post the ads and store hours here on WCPO.com as we get them.

Brad Wilson, an online deal expert and founder of BradsDeals, thinks stores are staggering sales events throughout Black Friday week to create a "lot of noise" and make it difficult for smartphone-toting shoppers to compare prices.

A few years ago, it was easier to make "quick and imperfect decisions," he said. "Now, the tables have turned and consumers have a transparent view of the landscape."

USE SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow your favorite stores' Twitter feeds and click the "Like" button on their Facebook pages. Stores will use their social networks to update shoppers on deals and store hours, says Carey Rossi, editor-in-chief of ConsumerSearch.com . Walmart Stores Inc., for example, unveiled its Black Friday deals on Walmart.com , its Facebook wall and mobile app on Thursday. Those who sign up to get email, download the app or "Like" its Facebook page will be among the first to get early access to special Black Friday store items to buy online and via the mobile app.

Meanwhile, Kohl's Facebook fans will receive exclusive savings during the holidays through Friday flash sales.

USE YOUR SMARTPHONE OR TABLET: For the first time, Macy's, through a partnership with eBay, has a Black Friday app that will let customers browse and shop for specials specific to the local store. Starting Nov. 15, customers will be able to view Black Friday specials on their mobile devices and create personal shopping lists they can edit and share.

Starting Nov. 19, Walmart will again have a Black Friday local store map available to view and print on Walmart.com and its local Walmart Facebook pages. But this year, customers can view an interactive local store map on the Walmart mobile app and click on items to see the price, product description and location in the store.

KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS: With a growing number of stores like Target Corp. offering price matching with certain online rivals like Amazon.com , you may find a better deal later and will have an easier time returning the more expensive item.

Click on the store names below to preview leaked Black Friday advertisements, courtesy bfads.net :

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