NEW YORK - Shoppers turned out in droves at malls and big-box stores around the country, taking advantage of Black Friday deals as retailers opened their doors earlier than ever on Thanksgiving.
Click here to view images of Black Friday frenzy around the country
Toys R Us, Wal-Mart and Sears got a head start on the big shopping weekend by opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That's even earlier than last year, when the toy retailer got a 9 p.m. start and Wal-Mart , the world's largest retailer, opened at 10 p.m.
The crowd at the Toys R Us in New York's Times Square started gathering about four hours ahead of the open, and was larger than it was last year, said CEO Jerry Storch.
"Our customers love the earlier opening," said Storch. "The atmosphere is celebratory and the crowds have been happy and excited to start their holiday shopping."
While shoppers were excited for the deals, particularly electronics uch as the Nintendo WiiU and a "buy one, get one for $1" deal on video games, many did have to rearrange their Thanksgiving dinner plans in order to take advantage of this year's earlier opening. h Many planned to shop, and then eat a late dinner.
New York City resident Shay Brown, 25, who spent Thanksgiving with relatives in Pittsburgh, decided to head to the Wal-Mart in Pittsburgh's Robinson Township for Black Friday shopping for the first time this year with her family, but wasn't thrilled about the early opening time.
"We could have been sitting around enjoying each others' company, but instead we had to rush here to get the deals," said Shay, who was shopping for DVDs.
Fellow Pittsburgh Wal-Mart shopper Vanessa Moore, 36, however, welcomed the 8 p.m. opening. She arrived two hours early to the store with nine other family members, and planned to hit the nearby Kmart and mall after Wal-Mart.
"I actually like that they're doing it on Thursday, because after you're done eating, there's really nothing to do," said the Steubenville, Ohio resident who is a veteran Black Friday shopper.
Black Friday safety
Many retailers took extra steps this year to ensure shopper safety on Black Friday, according to ABC News.
For example, Best Buy created strategic maps, changed merchandise setup and held practice runs for employees. The idea, they told ABC News is to get customers in and out of stores safely and quickly. At the Mall of America in Minnesota, people younger than 16 are not allowed to shop without an adult.
In Sacramento and in Los Angeles, there are extra police officers and security to ensure crowd control.
But, there have been reports of scuffles throughout the country.
A shopper in Sacramento reportedly threatened to stab people around him while he was waiting in line.
In Indianapolis, police were called to a Kmart after fights broke out over vouchers for plasma TVs.
Black Friday crowds around San Diego county
It was a busy Friday morning for stores around San Diego County. 10News was at the Otay Ranch Center in Chula Vista long before the sun was up.
Gloria Sanchez was among the many Black Friday shoppers, energized by door-busting deals.
"I'm just trying to figure out how much more space I have in my car," she said while holding several shopping bags. "When you can go and get a TV for $148, which was Wal-mart, or you can go get boots like the Lucky brand that are half off, that's a great deal."
Others said the Black Friday experience is all about the excitement of getting ready for the holiday season and seeing what stores have to offer.
While Black Friday is known for aggressive shoppers trampling over each other, there were only smiling faces and positive attitudes at Otay Ranch.
Lucy Saldivar played cards and sat with several people she just met while waiting for doors to open.
"We're all in the same line to together, so we're kind of getting to know each other," said Saldivar.
The checkout lines at a Best Buy in Mission Valley wrapped around the store after the midnight opening.
Mark Bial said he decided not to sleep after his Thanksgiving festivities so that he can show up early and cash in on deals.
“ I got a couple of games, a couple of movies, sale prices you get it a lot cheaper," he said. "So you’re saving a dime for staying up for a bunch of hours."
Tami Levalle said she and her family had a game plan ready even before walking into the store.
"It’s better to team up, because you can get different things in the crowd if you have different people with you," she said.
Some, like Adrian Irwin, just wanted to experience the Black Friday madness.
“ I came down [this country] on a work visa, and I wanted to take this in because we don’t have Black Friday at home," said Irwin.
Even though it’s too early to tell how well the Mission Valley Best Buy did Friday, managers said it's likely that profits were better this year compared to 2011.