Small retailers are trying a number of tactics to attract attention during the holiday season, when big-box stores typically offer steep discounts. Some merchants in Minneapolis got off to an early start, holding an event called Shop & Stroll last weekend. These types of events can pay off, experts say. "It's an opportunity for small retailers to float above the fray as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, ­Target, Macy's and others trample each other to earn the title 'earliest opening on Thanksgiving Day,' " said Dave Brennan, co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at the University of St. Thomas.

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