CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" used to just refer to an annual event in New York City.
Today the phrase can also be used to describe the lines of shoppers that will barrel through the department store chain's doors tonight in search of holiday deals.
Pack up your Butterball, Black Friday is at hand.
The official start of the holiday shopping season (which unofficially began weeks ago in many stores) will -- once again -- be getting an even earlier start this year as many chain stores and big-box retailers plan to open early this evening to get a jump-start on the holiday rush.
National chains like Macy's, J.C. Penney, Kohl's and Target plan to open their doors at 8 p.m. Big-box electronics retailer will open at 6 p.m., the same time Walmart plans its first round of "One-Hour Guarantee" promotions that promise particular sales items will be in stock during that period.
Gander Mountain and Big Lots will push the idea of an "early opening" to the extreme, with Big Lots beginning its holiday sales at 7 a.m. today and the outdoors retailer opening its doors at 8 a.m.
Charleston Town Center -- home to Macy's and J.C. Penney -- plans to be open for the first time ever on Thanksgiving Day this year.
The mall had an impromptu early Thursday opening last year. After planning to open at midnight, officials decided to unlock the doors a few hours early to accommodate the large crowds gathering downtown.
In addition to "doorbuster" deals being offered at its stores, Town Center marketing director Lisa McCracken said mall officials are planning to go all-out this year to cater to early crowds.
"We'll add to the festivities with a midnight giveaway of $1,000 in Charleston Town Center Mall gift cards," she said.
"With recent retail survey results indicating 91 percent of shoppers will integrate social media while shopping on Thanksgiving weekend, Charleston Town Center is planning a giveaway of 100 merchant gift cards via social media throughout the night," McCracken said.
The mall will also use social media to award five people free VIP front door parking on Thanksgiving night.
The Town Center isn't the only retail outlet to use special giveaways and contests to boost traffic this year.
Logan County resident Carrie Ball won Value City Furniture's Black Friday Shopping Spree contest this year.
A chauffeured limousine will arrive at Ball's home Friday morning to take her to the retailer's St. Albans store for a private, $1,000 shopping spree. After she's done spending the money, Ball will be allowed to use the limo for the rest of the day to complete her Black Friday shopping.
Cabela's, which opted not to open on Thanksgiving so its employees could spend the day with their families, will also be giving away $8,700 worth of free prizes as the store opens Friday at 5 a.m.
The first 600 shoppers in line Friday will receive gifts, including a Browning rifle, GoPro camera, Nikon Prostaff Range Finder, Masterbuilt Smoker, Bushnell Binoculars or a Cabela's gift card worth up to $100.
Complete details of area store opening times, promotions and holiday deals can be found among the 844 pages of inserts inside today's Daily Mail.
Spending to increase
The National Retail Federation estimates 140 million people will visit stores and shop online between Thursday and Monday. Nearly one-quarter, 33 million people, will start shopping before midnight tonight.