The gate rises and the Black Friday shoppers rush in.

For many, Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — the busiest shopping day of the year — began Thursday afternoon as many retail establishments opened at 5 or 6 p.m. with sales and hours set to last through the night, all day and into Friday evening as late as midnight.

Call it madness and the pandemonium increases each year.

For some, like Sears, the time between now and the end of the year is a last gasp of what once was.  Once called the world’s largest store, Sears is in bankruptcy and few expect the company to exist after the first of the year.  It might attempt to rebrand itself as an online operation or simply go out of business.

Black Friday sales and discounts through the holidays won’t keep other stores open in the future.  Retail chains like Macy’s may close more stores next year unless they have a larger turnout than expected.

Many shoppers may forgo trips to the mall Friday and wait for the Monday only madness that follows, selecting their Christmas gifts from Amazon and other Internet-based businesses.

But other camped out through the night as first in line at retailers who opened a 6 a.m. Friday or earlier for bargains that may disappear before the sun comes up.

Let the madness begin.

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