Cary, N.C. — Thousands of shoppers fresh off Thanksgiving meals hit stores across the Triangle Thursday night, hoping to take advantage of Black Friday deals that, in many cases, were available well before midnight.
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, as many as 147 million people said they plan to shop during the busiest retail weekend of the year.
Twin sisters Darcy and Carissa Jones – who called themselves professional shoppers – were two of them.
Despite it still being Thanksgiving when they arrived at Crossroads Plaza in Cary, their Black Friday system's were in full swing, complete with a homemade bible of coupons and shopping strategy.
“We love it,” Darcy Jones said. “It’s my favorite day of the whole year."
Forget the night. Old Navy opened to restless holiday shoppers at 9 a.m. Thursday. Michael's waited until after the meal and welcomed shoppers at 4 p.m. Long lines formed at the Best Buy in Cary and other stores.
“There's no more Black Friday,” said Sarah Barringer. “It's Black Thursday now."
Barringer and her mother, Lori, make the annual shopping a girl-time holiday tradition. But the shopping starts earlier and earlier.
“You’ve been working all day cooking, finally sit down for a nice meal, and then you’re ready to go,” Lori Barringer said.
The Jones sisters will hit a handful of stores before midnight and keep going.
“We'll be in line at Belks at 3 a.m. for the 250 gift cards,” Carissa said. “It's a big time. We've got it all planned out, step by step.”
For those in the Best Buy line, life is slower. First in line, Brian Roberts camped out since 7 p.m. Wednesday to get a cheap TV and video game when the doors open early Friday.
“We’ve been hanging out and met new friends,” he said.
When asked whether he was deliberately avoiding his family on Thanksgiving, Roberts said, “They avoid me. They went to Indiana.”
For the pros, earlier hours make it tougher to plan. And retailers run the risk of losing some of the allure of shopping tradition.
“If they opened earlier, there would be no suspense,” Sarah Barringer said. “That's what we like and that's why we stay up all night.”
At the Garner Best Buy, hundreds waited outside in the cold to be the first inside the store. It opened at midnight.
Gary Patterson, who ventured into the Black Friday crowds for the first time, snagged a new television for his daughter.
"It's something I'm not used to, but it's quite an experience," Patterson said. "It's invigorating."
Yolanda Ratliff missed out on the flat screen television she came for, but she didn't leave empty-handed.
"When this one went on sale, instead of getting it for $300, I got it for $48," she said. "I feel wonderful."