Economy Turns Shopping Dash Into Marathon

On Wednesday night at an Old Navy store in New York City, employees prepped and stocked the store for an early opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Seven hundred Old Navy stores across the country opened ahead of the traditional start of the holiday season, Black Friday.

"We want to deliver the flexibility to our customers who are really pressed for time and time starved an option to shop any of the three days and still get the value," Frank Oliveri, a regional director for Old Navy, told CBS News Correspondent Hari Sreenivasan.

It is being called Grey Thursday, an effort by retailers to stretch the shopping season.

Retailers expect shoppers to be thrifty this year. The National Retail Federation says the average consumer plans to spend $682 this year. That's down from just over $700 last year.

Shoppers looking for the same deep discounts they saw last year may find themselves disappointed. In 2008 retailers were stuck with excess inventory and had to drop prices drastically. This year that's not the case.

"The discounts are going to be more like 40 to 50 percent of select items," Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for market research firm NPD Group, told Sreenivasan, "not storewide sales, so don't expect to see the same kind of deals."

Stores like Sam's Club are working hard to bring in cost-conscious consumers.

"They understand how much money they make, how much money they can spend, the bills they have to manage, and I think they are shopping with much more care than ever before," Sam's Club President and CEO Brian Cornell told Sreenivasan.

That's why Best Buy's Black Friday deals start early.

"This is probably one of the better examples of it literally changing the price point of 32-inch high definition TV's," Mike Vitelli, executive vice president of Best Buy's customer operating group, told Sreenivasan.

"So this is a Black Friday price but you can get it now?" Sreenivasan asked.

"You can get it now," Vitelli said.

Many stores say they will extend some of their sales through December. It seems the recession has changed Black Friday from a one-day sprint to a two-month marathon.