CONCORD, N.C. -- Black Friday started earlier than ever this year as many shoppers pushed aside the turkey and headed for the malls and stores hoping for those early bargains.
Hours before Concord Mills Mall opened, people started arriving.
Most sat in their cars to avoid the cold that crept in as the sun went down.
"Most of my family is asleep now anyway," said Nilka Alicea, explaining what brought her out on what is supposed to be a time to be with friends and family.
At the Toys R Us store in Pineville, Virginia Maples was first in line for the store to open at 8 p.m.
She had been waiting for four hours and didn't seem to mind at all.
"Having fun. Met some new people and making new friends," she said.
When the doors finally did open the line moved smoothly with no pushing and shoving.
Shoppers went through the aisles and for the most part found what they were looking for.
So was it all worth it, giving up part of the Thanksgiving holiday?
Shopper Ashley Payne said, "It was actually because I have two kids so this was a nice break."
At Concord Mills the doors opened at midnight on Thanksgiving so by Friday morning shoppers had been up all night looking for good deals.
"It's crazy, I've never done this before, and it’s really fun and exciting and I like it," said one first time Black Friday shopper.
Whether first timers or Black Friday pros, "we done this like five years now and it seems to get earlier and earlier every year," said one shopper.
Shoppers fought the crowds to get their deals.
"Just mainly the deals at bass pro shop, ammo, guns, camouflage stuff."
The doors at Concord Mills opened at midnight on Thanksgiving so by morning many had pulled all nighters.
"The adrenaline starts kicking in about 4:00 in the morning."
With so many stores offering not only major discounts but also bonus gifts, many say it's worth the early wake- up call.
"We wanted to come get Coach pocket books for Christmas, as our presents, and they were only $44 so that was a great deal," said one early morning shopper.
And with shops opening on the night before Black Friday shoppers say it wasn't as slammed as years before.
"It wasn't that bad, wasn't as bad as I thought it would be , I figured it would be bigger crowd than it actually was."
The doors to the Kmart on Freedom Drive opened at 6 a.m. Thursday. It was first of three times the store will open and close in 24 hours - all to handle customers starting their holiday shopping on Thanksgiving.
It is store manager Earl Pettit’s job to make sure everything runs as smooth as it can. He woke up at 2:45 and got to the store by 3:40 a.m.
"In the back of my mind, want to make sure everything is ready,” Pettit said.
Two hundred people were already waiting outside when it opened. Once inside, shoppers targeted the door busters.
"Televisions, DVD’s, the notepads, things like that,” Pettit said.
Shopper Devonya Watson has a game plan which includes buying for the grandkids first, then her kids. She wants to get in, get out and avoid crowds.
“We knew what we were coming here to get,” Watson said. "Because normally the day after Thanksgiving is when the bigger crowds come out,”
Pettit says some folks finished all of their holiday shopping before most even had their morning coffee.
"Quite a few, actually,” said Pettit.
Watson's day off shopping was Pettit's 14 hour day working.
"It's like you hurry up and wait, all week long you get a little more ready and some things you just can't do until the last minute, but it is, it is a lot of fun,” he said.
Earlier Black Friday kicks off shopping season
This year's Black Friday shoppers were split into two distinct groups: those who wanted to fall into a turkey-induced slumber and those who'd rather shop instead.
Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that's named Black Friday because it's traditionally when retailers turn a profit for the year. But after testing how shoppers would respond to earlier hours last year, stores such as Target and Toys R Us this year opened as early as Thanksgiving evening. That led shoppers on a mission to find the best Black Friday deals to ask a difficult question: Deal with the crowds now or later?
Crystal Camacho, 19, and Sammy Caban, 23, got to Best Buy in the Manhattan borough of New York City at 12:30 a.m. on Black Friday with one goal in mind, a 40-inch Toshiba TV on sale for $180. They were determined, even though they both worked on Thanksgiving Day and had to work on Black Friday, she as a restaurant hostess and he as salesperson at GameStop. Five hours later, a little after 5 a.m., they walked out with the TV.
"It was crazy but well worth it," Caban said. "We got lucky."
Elizabeth Garcia, a sales rep from the city's Bronx borough, decided for a later shopping started at about 3:30 a.m. at a nearby Toys R Us in New York's Times Square. Garcia, who has three children ages three, five and seven, said she specifically decided on the later time to avoid the crowds on Thanksgiving when the store opened at 8 p.m. She believes that was the best decision: Last year, Garcia almost got into a fight over a Tinker Bell couch, but this year things were much calmer.
"This year I wasn't about to kill people," she said.
It is unclear how many shoppers were drawn to the earlier openings versus the traditional Black Friday hours. But according to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers conducted this month, about 17 percent planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving, up from 16 percent last year when retailers were testing the earlier hours. Meanwhile, 33 percent intended to shop on Black Friday, down one percentage point from last year. Overall, it's estimated that sales on Black Friday will be up 3.8 percent to $11.4 billion this year.
The earlier hours are an effort by stores to make shopping as convenient as possible for Americans, who they fear won't spend freely during the two-month holiday season in November and December because of economic uncertainty. Many shoppers are worried about high unemployment and a package of tax increases and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff" that will take effect in January unless Congress passes a budget deal by then. At the same time, Americans have grown more comfortable shopping on websites that offer cheap prices and the convenience of being able to buy something from smartphones, laptops and tablet computers from just about anywhere.
That's put added pressure on brick-and-mortar stores, which can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season, to give consumers a compelling reason to leave their homes. That's becoming more difficult: the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, estimates that overall sales in November and December will rise 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion, or about flat with last year's growth. But the online part of that is expected to rise 15 percent to $68.4 billion, according to Forrester Research.
As a result, brick-and-mortar retailers have been trying everything they can to lure consumers into stores. Some stores tested the earlier hours last year, but this year more retailers opened their doors late on Thanksgiving or at midnight on Black Friday. In addition to expanding their hours, many also are offering free layaways and shipping, matching the cheaper prices of online rivals and updating their mobile shopping apps with more information.
"Every retailer wants to beat everyone else," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, a research firm based in Charleston, S.C. "Shoppers love it."
Indeed, some holiday shoppers seemed to find stores' earlier hours appealing. About 11,000 shoppers were in lines wrapped around Macy's flagship store in New York City's Herald Square when it opened at midnight on Black Friday. Joan Riedewald, a private aide for the elderly, and her four children ages six to 18, where among them. By the time they showed up at the department store, Riedewalde had already spent about $100 at Toys R Us, which opened at 8 p.m., and planned to spend another $500 at Macy's before heading to Old Navy.
"I only shop for sales," she said.
Carey Maguire, 33, and her sister Caitlyn Maguire, 21, showed up at the same Target about two hours before it opened. Their goal was to buy several Nook tablet computers, which were on sale for $49. But while waiting in line they were also using their iPhone to do some online buying at rival stores.
"If you're going to spend, I want to make it worth it," said Caitlyn Maguire, a college student.
By the afternoon on Thanksgiving, there were 11 shoppers in a four-tent encampment outside a Best Buy store near Ann Arbor, Mich., that opened at midnight. The purpose of their wait? A $179 40-inch Toshiba LCD television is worth missing Thanksgiving dinner at home.
Jackie Berg, 26, of Ann Arbor, arrived first with her stepson and a friend Wednesday afternoon, seeking three of the televisions. The deal makes the TVs $240 less than their normal price, so Berg says that she'll save more than $700.
"We'll miss the actual being there with family, but we'll have the rest of the weekend for that," she said.