Kmart is going on a holiday all-nighter, opening for bargain hunters at 6 a.m.
The effort will be the longest test of endurance in both retailers' history.
The day after Thanksgiving has long been considered the kickoff to holiday shopping. But in recent years, antsy bargain hunters have been able to swarm into stores earlier and earlier.
Kmart and Sears, both owned by Sears Holdings Corp., are joining a stampede of retailers kicking off door-buster deals before pumpkin pie is served.
In 2010, Sears was open from 7 a.m. until noon on Thanksgiving. The chain stayed closed on the holiday the following year but then decided to open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving 2012.
Kmart has opened at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving since at least 2010, but has not allowed all-night shopping sprees until this year.
Retailers are especially nervous about the holiday season this year, which was prefaced by months of lukewarm retail sales and a confidence-shattering government shutdown.
A poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found Monday that 53% of shoppers plan to spend less on holiday gift-giving this year than they did last year. A third said they'll spend nothing; only 3% intend to spend more.
A separate survey Monday from financial consulting firm BDO concluded that retailers expect a 2.5% increase in holiday sales at stores open at least a year. That's far more pessimistic than last year's predictions, which ultimately proved too upbeat.
The survey also showed big changes in what retailers expect shoppers to buy.
The BDO report said that 69% of retailers in the survey believe electronics will be the bestselling product segment — up from less than a quarter in 2009.
Just 3% of those surveyed said toys would be the hottest category, down from 39% four years ago.
Nearly two-thirds of retailers anticipate inventory levels on par with last year's, suggesting that they expect similar demand from consumers.
"We're seeing retailers enter the holiday season with realistic, rather than optimistic, expectations," said Doug Hart, partner in BDO's retail division.
But for Brian Sozzi, chief executive of Belus Capital Advisors, the outlook on Kmart is nowhere near cheery.
Posting on his website Monday, Sozzi ripped into Kmart. He called it "dreadful to visit" with "borderline unsafe stores that are sending the division's financials down a path of no return."
He pointed to charts showing the steady decline in the number of Kmart stores compared with the steady growth of Wal-Marts and Targets. Kmart, he said, also has suffered eight straight quarters of declines in same-store sales.
Sozzi also put up photos of misspelled signs, empty shelves, products displayed on dingy pallets, dusty goods and corroded floors that he said were from Kmart stores.
Kmart said in a statement that it is investing in its stores as well as in shopping technology.
"We do not believe these photos from that store are representative of the majority of our Kmart locations and certainly do not depict what we want our members and customers to experience," the company said through a spokesperson. "We take these matters seriously and have already instructed our store team to begin addressing the issues."
The retailer has been trying to make itself more accessible to shoppers. On Monday, the chain touted its "seamless ways to shop online," including options to buy items digitally and have them picked up by friends or family.