NEW YORK — It's Black Friday, The Sequel. Stores are rolling out deals and expect to be swimming in shoppers on Christmas Eve as stragglers take advantage of a day off work. For retailers, the last-minute rush caps the best year since 2007, and possibly ever.

NEW YORK — It's Black Friday, The Sequel. Stores are rolling out deals and expect to be swimming in shoppers on Christmas Eve as stragglers take advantage of a day off work. For retailers, the last-minute rush caps the best year since 2007, and possibly ever.

With Christmas falling on a Saturday this year, Friday is a holiday for most U.S. workers. That lets shoppers hit the stores first thing in the morning. "I'm calling it Fantastic Friday, because I really do think it's going to be one of the busiest days of the year," said Marshal Cohen, chief fashion industry analyst with researcher NPD Group.

A strong Christmas Eve would round out a surprisingly successful holiday season for retailers. The National Retail Federation predicts that holiday sales will reach $451.5 billion this year, up 3.3 percent over last year. That would be the biggest year-over-year increase since 2006, and the largest total since sales hit a record $452.8 billion in 2007. A strong finish could even give 2010 the crown.