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More people plan on shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend this year than last, according to the National Retail Federation.

The retail trade group is estimating that 138 million Americans plan on shopping during the holiday weekend, an increase of 4 million over last year’s projections. 

Estimates are based off of an annual survey the NRF conducted in early November. Approximately 60 million people said they will definitely hit the stores, while another 78 million are waiting to see if the bargains are worth braving the cold and the crowds.

The NFR attributed the projected increase to aggressive marketing campaigns and deep discounts that retailers are toting this season.

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Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart have already released their best Black Friday deals, as well as plans to open earlier than usual on Nov. 26. Upping the ante even further, Toys ‘R’ Us announced Wednesday that it will open its stores for Black “Friday” shopping at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

"The rules for Black Friday have changed significantly,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Instead of waiting until Thanksgiving Day to announce their promotions, many retailers are getting shoppers excited about Black Friday by offering sneak peeks of deals in advance, using social media to create buzz, or teasing upcoming deals on their websites.”

The latest estimate supports an earlier statement from the federation that said there was going to be a slight increase in consumer spending this holiday season. The NRF will conduct a follow-up survey to determine how many people actually do go shopping over the weekend, including on Thanksgiving Day.

How can you negotiate the anticipated crowds? MainStreet has some tips for shopping on Black Friday. You can also check out all of Black Friday 2010 coverage here.

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