MINNEAPOLIS - New year. Same headline: Is Black Friday dying?

Professor George John with the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management says this is an important holiday season for most retailers.

“We keep saying this every year. It is true that if you take a 20 – 25 year look at the picture, the seasonality of retailing has evened out a little bit,” John said. “It used to be much more heavily concentrated in that fourth quarter. It is a little less concentrated now. That said it is still an important holiday season for most retailers.”

“This is really the first year everybody is optimistic. The consensus estimate is we are going to likely see retail sales grow about three to 3.5 percent,” he added.

Monday, Target announced early access to Black Friday shopping for its credit card holders on Nov. 22. It also revealed its Thanksgiving store hours-- opening at 6 p.m. that Thursday but closing stores at midnight. It will reopen at 6 a.m. on Black Friday.

John said Black Friday “is frayed around the edges” but the spirit of Black Friday is not dying.

“Just remember, what is Black Friday? It is the start of that frenzy season where you are looking for deals,” he said. “And the deals are going to be as often as they are, as common as they were before and they are going to be sharply targeted. You got to go look for it."

A holiday shopping survey by the National Retail Federation shows more consumers planning to do most of their shopping this year on the Internet.

“Online has brought an opportunity and a threat. I will remind you that overall, online is still only 10-percent of overall retail sales. If you are a retailer, it is essential you get store traffic. How are you going to get store traffic, you have to create excitement.” he said. “How do you get excitement? You get everybody focused on something. A time. A place. An event that is how you create retail excitement.”