I don't know if it's fair to call Target the underdog, but I guess in a few ways, that fits. It doesn't have the most stores, doesn't sell the most products, and doesn't dominate online sales. It goes against much larger competitors in both physical retail and e-commerce, squaring off with giants like Walmart and Amazon. And, as the calendar nears the end of the year, the most important season for retailers is starting now.

As a consumer, I have mixed feelings about the fact that the holiday shopping season seems to start earlier and earlier each year. In our family, as parents of four young children, time seems to fly by far too fast anyway. I'm not sure I'm ready for Christmas to follow the day after Halloween, but if you're a retailer, you almost don't have a choice.

That's especially true this year, when the traditional holiday shopping season is shorter by an entire weekend, meaning that retailers have to work extra hard to maximize every opportunity to bring customers into their stores. So, if you're Target, it means getting a little creative in the fight against the big guys.

Of course, Target does have a few things going for it. For example, it certainly has a brand as the place Americans love to shop. It also recently opened Disney mini-stores in 25 locations and plans to continue rolling out more. And, it introduced services to directly compete with Amazon's one-day free shipping.

For example, Target is offering free shipping on all holiday purchases (starting November 1), and offers free in-store pickup and drive up in every state. It also offers same-day delivery through its Shipt service, which doesn't require a membership fee.

It has built over 100 smaller-format stores to bring its brand into college and urban areas, and the result is that its more than 1,800 stores nationwide serve as a fulfillment network for getting you the products you want as quickly as possible. The idea is to make it as easy as possible to shop at Target, whether that's in a store, online, or some combination of both. 

Of course, Target also has every retailer's favorite strategy: "let's have a sale!" And, considering that shortened calendar, that makes total sense. 

Target isn't waiting until Black Friday to start drawing in shoppers with huge discounts on items they want for the holidays. In fact, this morning, Target announced that it is launching a Black Friday Preview Sale this Friday and Saturday, which includes a $200 gift card when you purchase one of Apple's newest iPhone models

Target is also starting it's Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving morning but is extending those sales to Wednesday, November 28, to its Circle members and RedCard holders. I'm not leaving my house on Thanksgiving if I don't have to, but if you want to get the earliest deals, Target (like many other retailers) has you covered. 

But, even if you're like me, here's why you should pay attention: If you're a consumer, certainly all of those sales and early deals are a great opportunity to save money while you shop for holiday gifts. Everyone likes to save money.

Of course, if you're a retailer, there's an even better lesson, which is that whether you're personally ready for the holidays or not, you can't afford to wait. Despite the fact that the holiday shopping season is shorter, experts predict that online shopping this holiday season will be up as much as 13 percent. If you plan to get in on that action, it's up to you to leverage your best assets to reach your customers.

For Target, that's its brand and its stores. For your business, it might be an experience you can create that a giant e-commerce site can't. Target seems to have figured out that being an underdog doesn't mean getting beat. In fact, it's actually a really smart strategy. After all, everyone likes to cheer for the underdog.