NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Stores opened their doors Friday for what is still one of the busiest days of the year, even as the start of the holiday season edges ever earlier.

Black Friday is used to launch the holiday season, but the competition to grab customers first is keen. Stores such as Macy’s, Walmart, Target and more were open Thursday evening in what they hope will be a new holiday tradition.

“We postpone dinner so we can come early and not come in the middle of the night,” said shopper Carmen Barrios.

“I’m going to be honest. This is the first time I did this. These people are crazy,” one shopper said.

In addition to seeking bargains on TVs, items that drew crowds included cellphones and Hatchimals — eggs with a small, animatronic animal inside that hatch when given attention.

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“There seems to be deeper discounts than there were in years past, so the pain threshold almost seems like it’s worth it,” said shopper Brian McDonald.

But many stores are offering the same deals as in previous years, like $19.99 boots that remain a big attraction, cashmere sweaters and sheets.

“I saved $74 and spent 69, so basically saved half,” said Kerry Olander, of Bayonne, New Jersey, told CBS2’s Magdalena Doris at Newport Centre mall in Jersey City.

Tanya Jordan planned to start shopping for herself Friday after buying for others Thursday night. She was looking for a big-screen TV at the Best Buy store in Howell Township, New Jersey. She also planned to browse the camera department, hoping to upgrade her current equipment if she could find the right deal.

“I buy a lot of stuff online, but when it comes to technology, I want to see and feel what I’m buying,” the 25-year-old Jackson Township resident said.

Jackie Tate, a nurse from Manhattan, said that in the past she’d get up in the wee hours to shop the deals on Black Friday. At Macy’s in New York on Thursday night, she said she planned to go shopping Friday but her enthusiasm has waned.

“I do most everything online now,” Tate said.

Amanda from Franklin Square told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern she started shopping at midnight at the outlet before hitting Roosevelt Field mall bright and early.

What did she get for all her effort?

“Good sales and first dibs on everything,” she said.

David from Flushing said there’s a price to pay for the early-morning shopping and he planned to pay it when he was done.

“Probably go back home and knock out,” he said. “Pretty tired. A long night.”

At the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jersey, two women said it’s their tradition to hit the doorbuster sales together.

“We do it every year with the kids,” one of the friends told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “We’ve been doing it since they were babies. We just told them it was the park when they were younger, and they believed us.”

Not interested in a possible stampede? Online shopping isn’t just for Cyber Monday anymore.

“Every year for the past several years, Amazon has by far the No. 1 store for Black Friday deals and discounts,” said retail analyst Benjamin Galszer.

This weekend is crucial to set the tone for the holiday season. Around 137 million people are planning to or are considering doing their shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation. That includes online and store shopping. Black Friday vies with the Saturday before Christmas as the busiest shopping day of the year.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail group, expects holiday sales to rise 3.6 percent for November and December, better than the 3 percent growth seen for those months last year. That excludes car sales, gas and restaurant receipts but includes online spending and other non-store sales, such as catalog spending.

Online spending climbed to more than $1 billion Thursday, up nearly 14 percent from a year ago, according to the Adobe Digital Index. People spent a record $449 million using their mobile devices alone.

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