With Thanksgiving and Black Friday coming up, we are about to kick off the unofficial start of what’s become the Great Holiday Shopping season.

According to John Holub, the president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, store merchants are getting ready.

“They’re trying to provide the product that the consumers want and provide it in a way they want it," he said.

Which means in the store, online, or both.

“The lines are blurred. It’s not really online versus bricks-and-mortar anymore. A sale is going to be a sale and it really doesn’t matter these days to the retailer how it’s accomplished.”

He said for the next five weeks, retailers will be pulling out all the stops, offering excellent deals on a number of different types of products. But “things don’t end on Christmas."

"One of the biggest things people are going to receive are gift cards," he said. "After Christmas, people go back into the stores, so they’ll be promotions from now through the New Year.”

Holub pointed out the best sales used to come right before Christmas but that’s not the case anymore.

“It’s definitely keeping your eyes open. My advice is to shop early and often," he said. “If there’s a product that you want and it’s at a price-point you think is reasonable, you should definitely snatch it up, particularly when it comes to toys.”

That’s because as the holiday shopping season continues, some of the hottest toys may no longer be available.

“If there’s something out there that you want, that you really have your heart set on, it’s better to buy it sooner rather than later.”

Promotions for holiday steals and deals began before Halloween, which upset some people, “but that’s because retailers are providing consumers what they want. More and more people are starting their shopping earlier. Retailers want to take advantage of people that are in the buying mood.”

Holub said between now and the new year, analysts are predicting up to 4.8 percent sales gain over last year, which is not as good as the 5 percent gain the prior year. Still, that's above average for the past five years.

“We’re still headed in the right direction," he said.

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