"I think they're pulling out all the stops; I would characterize it as their 'A' game this year," Santa Clara University Professor Kirthi Kalyanam said.
Retailers have been teasing consumers all week with pre-Thanksgiving specials and it appears to be working. The Black Friday crowds are better than expected, lured by low-priced high-def TVs and $25 gift certificates for spending $50.
Marka Hansen was busy helping customers at the baby gap store at San Jose's Westfield Valley Fair and learning from their conversations.
Hansen is president of the entire Gap North American operation.
She was very pleased by the crowds, although gap did not offer store-wide discounts as many other merchants did.
"We were very pointed today about having an offer on sweaters and kids and cozy fleece as opposed to discounting the entire store," Hansen said. "So if you look around, where you see everybody having to put their entire store on sale versus where you have a very specific offer to get the customer excited about holiday."
The malls are also pushing hard to attract shoppers. While it was a chance for a $5,000 shopping spree today, Valley Fair will up the ante to draw customers in the weeks ahead.
"We're giving away a car, a laptop, a trip to New York for a $10,000 shopping spree,"Valley Fair spokesperson Laura Vestal said.
And that's a key point. There is a big worry is that consumers will reach their spending limit this weekend.
"There's too many good deals today so I think that's why everyone's spending today and then it's going to slow down," Gilroy resident Jeanette Ehrich said.
Retailers will be looking closely at their online sales, too, to make strategic pricing decisions on what to mark down.
"If you're in a bricks and mortar store, it can take you a few days or weeks to get reports back on what's moving, but if they can see what's happening in their online business, they can make a decision and then go ahead very quickly and make a decision to change a price or offer a discount on something," Coremetrics President and CEO Joe Davis said.
Retailers clearly are hoping theyare priming the pump today, hoping if they can get consumers to start spending, they might spend more than they were budgeting.