NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thanksgiving Day used to be about food, family, and maybe a little football. But in recent years, shopping has been a part of the mix — as some head to the mall on Thanksgiving Day searching for early sales, while also avoiding the frenzy of Black Friday crowds.

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Some retailers are beginning their Black Friday deals online, while others are rolling out bargains in-store on Thanksgiving Day.

As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, eager shoppers were spotted holding umbrellas and wearing rain jackets as they spent their Thanksgiving night winding their way through crowd control barriers outside Walmart in Teterboro, New Jersey.

Some had major success inside.

“I’m going to be honest — first time I did this,” said Matthew Umana of Staten Island as he wheeled away a new 55-inch TV he bought. “These people are crazy. They’re crazy.”

But as a new dad, Umana said he’d be crazy not to try to save a little money.

“Can’t go wrong!” he said.

Over at Toys ‘R’ Us in Totowa, proud parents packed their shopping carts with deeply discounted toys.

Kayla Cook of Kearny said she was missing dessert, “but I ate too much at dinner — it’s OK.”

While Cook skipped the pie, the Barrios family delayed dinner altogether so they wouldn’t let the sales slip away.

“We postpone dinner so we can come early and not come in the middle of the night,” Barrios said, adding that she wouldn’t wait because the deals were too good to pass up.

And as for the debate on opening at all Thanksgiving Day, store manager Jesus Rivera said, “It’s just alleviate the crowds on Friday.”

Meanwhile, Queens Center Mall staggered the opening of its big stores, so large crowds arrived in waves, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.

Shoppers there were rewarded with applause and what they call great deals at JCPenney, where the line outside started forming around 9 a.m. By 3 p.m., it stretched for blocks.

“It’s a little maddening. I think they should be home with their families,” said Elmhurst resident Darlene Mone as she passed by. “You waste your whole day lining up.”

Plenty of retailers kept their stores closed for all of Thanksgiving.

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Jay Montenegro, who works for Vitamin Shoppe, told Carlin he had to work on the holiday in years past, but this time around he’s doing the buying not the selling.

“Today’s my only day to get an outfit for dinner, so I’m like great, thank god this store is open,” he said.

But others were there for the gifts and getting serious about checking off their holiday shopping lists.

“I want to buy the heating pad for my mom, and then if you go to the third floor for the home, all the containers that are $56 regular price are now like $10 after a $15 rebate,” said Sau Li, of Elmhurst. “So how can you not buy it when it’s like 80 percent off?”

“Everyone wants a good deal,” Joshua Rodriguez, of Corona, said.

More American than ever before are using their fingers to shop from home online.

But people still lined up in Queens, and the store representatives said there’s nothing quite like getting your hands on the merchandise with no delay.

“There’s going to be a bunch of great deals in there that you probably can’t even get online right now,” JCPenney employee Mane Singh said.

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The National Retail Federation predicts an increase in sales this holiday season compared to last with a jump of 3.6 percent.

Big retailers like AmazonTarget, Newegg, Best Buy, and Walmart are all offering deep discounts this year. Experts say, make sure to do your research — if a sale isn’t at least 40 percent off, you should probably keep looking.

“A 50-inch for $200 bucks, that’s like stupid-crazy, so much better,” one Best Buy employee said. “And computers, I’ve never seen a computer that cheap, for 99 bucks.”

Authorities are also warning shoppers to stay safe. Many stores have security protocols in place to reassure the public and crack down on crime during the holiday shopping weekend.

“We have our criminal intelligence rapid response team and a very robust bureau of special operations that will be out there, including mounted units and canine,” Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, of the Nassau County Police Department, said.

Police have urged shoppers to remain calm and cordial, vigilant about their surroundings, and to speak up if they see or hear something suspicious.

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They are also asking residents to lock up when leaving their homes, and lock their cars once they arrive at the mall.