USA TODAY (Laura Petrecca) -- Cyber Monday coming on a Sunday. Black Friday happening on a Thursday. Online-only deals, in-store-only sales.
There are so many confusing promotions going on, it could make shoppers just want to re-gift items they have in their closets.
But if that's not an option, prepare for this year's shopping season to be chaotic as retailers contend with the shortened period between a late Thanksgiving and Christmas while trying to court price-conscious consumers, says Wendy Liebmann, CEO of consultancy WSL Strategic Retail.
"It's a retail free-for-all," she says. "It's going to be mad."
To get the shopper's attention, many companies are using classic buzzwords such as "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" -- but putting their own spin on how those sales will work:
-- Walmart.com just announced that it would offer hundreds of Black Friday deals online on Thanksgiving. It will have 20 Cyber Monday deals a day early on Dec. 1 for its mobile app customers, Facebook fans and e-mail subscribers.
-- Macy's just offered its own Black Friday pricing eight days early. On Thursday, it e-mailed "Let's beat the rush" and provided "Black Friday prices now" on select appliances.
-- Amazon.com will launch its Black Friday deals five days early on Sunday. . "Black Friday 2013 is almost here, but we didn't want you to wait until the day after Thanksgiving for Black Friday deals," it said on its website.
The schedule screwiness comes as retailers feel pressure to ring up sales. Consumer spending is expected to be up only marginally from 2012.
"Everyone is desperate at the end of the year -- they need a good holiday season," says Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy.
With increased use of digital devices, traditions such as shopping in stores the day after Thanksgiving or on a work computer the following Monday are passe, he says.
Retailers are trying to take advantage of new shopping patterns.
But with so many sales promotions coming at so many different times, it can be overwhelming for consumers.
Shoppers have to "take control of this chaos, because it's not like other years," Liebmann says.
Her advice: Don't try to do it all.
Shoppers should determine the top few items they want to buy, snap them up when they see them at a decent price - and not go crazy over saving a few bucks.
"You have to narrow it down and focus," she says. "Do your homework to determine what looks like a pretty good price."
"Get the important things off the list," she suggests, and then enjoy the chaos shopping for stocking stuffers.