The holiday shopping season started as a marathon, not a sprint.
More than a dozen major U.S. retailers stayed open for 24 hours or more on Thanksgiving Day through Black Friday, and crowds formed early and often over the two days.
About 15,000 people waited for the flagship Macy's in New York to open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Long checkout lines formed at the Target in Colma, Calif., on Friday morning. And by the time Jessica Astalos was leaving North Point Mall in Alpharetta, Ga., after a six-hour buying binge that started on Thanksgiving, another wave of shoppers was coming in about 5:30 a.m. today.
"You just have to be out in the midst of all of it," said Ricki Moss, who hit stores near Portland, Ore., at 5:30 a.m. today. "It's exciting."
This year may cement the transformation of the start of the holiday shopping season into a two-day affair.
Black Friday, the official start of the shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, originally was named that because it was when retailers turned a profit, or moved out of the red and into the black. Retailers opened early and offered deep discounts.
But in the past few years, store chains have been opening on Thanksgiving.
This year, several welcomed shoppers for the first time on Thanksgiving night, while Gap Inc., which owns Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy, opened half its stores earlier on the holiday.
Walmart stores, most of which stay open 24 hours, has for the past several years offered doorbusters that had been reserved for Black Friday. And Kmart planned to stay open 41 hours starting at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving.
That has led some to question how much further Black Friday will creep into Thanksgiving, which along with Christmas is one of only two days a year that most stores are closed.
"Black Friday is now Gray Friday," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy.
The earlier openings have met with some resistance.
Workers' rights groups and some shoppers had planned protests on Thanksgiving and Black Friday to decry the way some store employees were forced to miss holiday meals at home. But as of Thursday afternoon, there were no reports of widespread protests.