"It is literally a party, it is a teen party mob scene," Morris said. "These teens are going nuts over this stuff."
More than 180 of Mall of America's 520 stores will open at midnight on Thanksgiving, an increase from 65 a year ago.
Stores that didn't open early in 2011 "were bummed," said Julie Hansen, a spokesman for the Bloomington, Minn., mall. Several stores that opened at midnight last year had surpassed their sales figures from the previous Black Friday by 4 a.m., she said.
Customers have long complained about seeing Christmas decor in stores before kids had even finished devouring their Halloween candy, and retailers had traditionally saved their best come-hither deals for after Thanksgiving. More recently, though, some retailers began offering Black Friday deals online beginning on Thanksgiving and then opening stores on the holiday, and consumers followed.
"It's unfortunate, but it's just that constant creep forward. Soon, there will be no Thanksgiving holiday," Bines said. "The holdouts this year are next year's participants. It's just a question of who wants to push the envelope."
Not everyone is a fan of the extended hours. While the holiday openings, with their doorbusters and giveaways, create buzz, the downside is that adding hours on Thanksgiving can damage employee morale and performance in the long run, said Paul Swinand, a retail analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Chicago.
More than 130 petitions asking large retailers to forgo holiday hours have been introduced this year, according to Change.org, a website that allows activists to post petitions. That includes one from a Target worker calling for the Minneapolis-based discounter to revert to a 5 a.m. Black Friday opening that has garnered more than 350,000 signatures this year, according to the organization.