Here we go: Holiday shopping officially begins

'Tis the eve of the new day of shopping—Thanksgiving—and all of retail is gearing up for its busy season. Except that the season got busy earlier than ever and will likely be driven by an endless stream of deals designed to drive traffic from here to Christmas Day.

Scratch that, promotions will extend from now to well into January as retailers try to get a share of the nearly $26 billion in gift cards expected by the National Retail Federation this season.

Here at FierceRetail, we will be closely watching how the weekend plays out. Thanksgiving Day sales seem to be here to stay, but will retailers such as Nordstrom and Costco be rewarded after the fact? Will REI see a sales boost or lift in membership after it stays closed on Black Friday and will new online sales records be set?

There are a lot of questions and a lot of unknowns. To use the phrase, "Fasten your seatbelt, it's going to be a bumpy ride," seems an understatement. -Laura