Black Friday shoppers camping out in Tampa

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It's Thanksgiving week. And, to super shoppers, that means Black Friday is on the horizon.  Though sales are now much more internet-focused, some things never change -- already, campers are lining up their tents outside Best Buy on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.

On the cool sidewalk, Rick Hilton has all the comforts of home.

"It's the air mattress, blanket, pillow, food, water, Bluetooth speaker, cell phone," Hilton said.

Sure, he knows there are plenty of Black Friday deals online.  But, to him, the campout is about tradition.  

"It just means a lot to be around good people, positive people," Hilton said.

And, of course, the doorbusters make it time well-spent.

"You can spend $900 on a TV or $200," Hilton said. "A friend of mine, he wants a TV for when his grandkids come over. It's $200. It's 50 inches. Me, I'm going to get the laptop."

Over the years, Black Friday has grown from one day to several days to several weeks.

"About 12 years ago, Black Friday was something that happened on Friday," said Jennifer Burton, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Tampa.

Burton calls it the "Holiday Creep."

"Fifty percent of consumers start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving so everything keeps moving earlier and earlier and earlier," Burton said.

Earlier isn't always better. Burton said the retail rush reached its worst point in 2015 when stores opened early Thanksgiving morning.  That led to backlash and calls for boycotts.

"The incremental profits just weren't worth it," Burton said. "So, what we are finding this year is, retailers taking what I think is a more sensible approach and they are opening up at 5 or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving."

They're also steering extreme early shoppers to their websites where sales have been in effect for weeks.

That's where Mike Utaegbulam hopes to do his holiday shopping.
"No wait; I can do it any time," Utaegbulam said. "Sometimes, the prices are even better online than they are in the store. I just don't want to sit and wait in line, so, I can get everything from home."

With so many online deals, is the campout really still worth it?

For a $200 TV or $100 laptop, Burton says, absolutely.

"Retailers still want traffic in their stores and these doorbusters are limited in number and are a really steep discount and they are worth lining up for," Burton said.

Hilton agrees.

"People come by and say, 'What are you doing? Are you crazy? Are you nuts?' I'm like, 'I might be, a little bit,' but this is still fun."