Wal-Mart, Target opening at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving

Will start online sales in early morning hours

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Wal-Mart and Target each plan to kick off their in-store Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, repeating their start-times from last year and throwing some cold water on the notion that Turkey Day deals blitzes may be falling out of style.

Earlier in the season, the Mall of America announced it would be shuttering its doors on the holiday after being open in previous years. Office Depot made a similar reversal of course. But the plans from the big-box behemoths — as well as from Macy’s, Kohl’s and Toys R Us — suggest the Thanksgiving Day shopping tradition is going strong.

Wal-Mart said it will be “dramatically increasing” the amount of inventory it has available for online deal hunters, offering some 50 percent more Black Friday merchandise this year on the Web than last year.

“We really pride ourselves on not being the retailer who advertises a great price but then only has a few available for the customers,” said Steve Bratspies, the chief merchandising officer at Wal-Mart U.S., during a conference call with reporters.

In earlier announcements about their seasonal plans, Target and Wal-Mart stressed they were trying to focus on making their promotions simple this year. In the past, it seems, shoppers have been confused by a cavalcade of coupons or staggered sale starting times.

At Target, that means returning to the “10 days of deals” program, something the retailer tried last year in which it touted a single big promotion each day starting the weekend before Thanksgiving. Wal-Mart also is aiming for simple: Besides its limited-time Black Friday discounts, it plans to keep the rest of its price cuts in place for the duration of the November and December rush.

Target and Wal-Mart will start their online Black Friday sales in the early morning hours on Thanksgiving. And both will be offering a steady trickle of discounts over the next two weeks to encourage customers to get in the holiday spirit.

The National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, forecasts that the nation’s retailers will ring up a healthy 3.6 percent increase in sales this holiday season. That would be an improvement from last year, when sales growth was up just 3 percent.

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