It's not the busiest weekend of the year at South Mississippi shopping centers and stores -- that comes closer to Christmas -- but Thanksgiving and Black Friday typically set the pace for the next four weeks of holiday shopping.
Once again, most of the big retailers will open early Thanksgiving evening -- although store management, like shoppers, are divided on when is the best time to open the doors.
Terry Powell, general manager at Edgewater Mall, said JC Penney will open at 3 p.m. Thursday while Dillards will remain closed on Thanksgiving and open at 8 a.m. on Black Friday.
It's already been busy, he said, with retailers noticing when Mississippi Power rebate checks arrived in their customers' mailboxes. The cold weather also is bringing people to the Biloxi mall to shop.
"You need cold weather to sell sweaters and jackets," Powell said.
So do shoppers prefer coming out early on Thanksgiving evening for the bargains rather than waiting until very early Black Friday?
"We're going to find out," he said, "because if they like it they'll be here."
Before they hit the stores, many shoppers will be scanning the 30 or so advertising circulars that will be stuffed inside Thursday's Sun Herald and planning their shopping routes to match prices to their gift lists.
The National Retail Foundation puts the average spending on Christmas gifts at $805.65 per person -- and they won't just spend on gifts. The trade group's survey shows 56 percent of shoppers will buy for themselves or their homes and spend an average of $132.
"In addition to shopping for gifts for their loved ones, holiday shoppers will take advantage of discounts to treat themselves and/or their family members to a non-gift item," the survey said. They are looking for sales, quality merchandise and a convenient place to shop.
WalletHub, the personal finance website, says 68 percent of featured sales items Thursday and Friday will have a significant Black Friday discount of 10 percent or more, making it worth the wait to buy them. The biggest bargains will be on books, movies, music and video games, WalletHub said, and it's also a good time to buy toys, appliances and elctronics.
And for those who just can't decide, gift cards are still the most-requested gift for the ninth consecutive year.