Posted By: Camila Orti
Thousands of people are out shopping for Black Friday deals a few hours early this year.
For the first time ever, Gateway Mall is welcoming what some refer to as "Gray Thursday" shoppers, as most retailers opened their doors at 8 p.m. Thursday. Last year, stores didn't open until midnight.
Gateway representatives say this is based on a national trend, and if other stores in town are opening earlier, mall retailers want to hop onboard, too.
"You certainly want to be open when everyone's out and about and expecting you to be open," Gateway Mall Marketing Director Ryan Bouc said.
But some shoppers don't like the earlier start time, saying Thanksgiving should be about family, not doorbusters.
"It seems like it was just better that way, and then you have your whole Thanksgiving day to be with your family," Shopper Denise Brennan said.
But it didn't stop shoppers from lining up at the doors. Marketing Director Ryan Bouc says he estimates more than 50,000 shoppers will come through the mall Thursday and Friday, increasing sales by an estimated 3 percent.
For people like Kristyn Bennett, Black Friday shopping is serious business, and the best way to get through family Christmas lists.
"I've got a really big family, so to try and make Christmas happen, it's things like this that make it kind of affordable," Bennett said.
Experts estimated 33 million people will spend money on Thanksgiving, either in stores or online, accounting for nearly a quarter of the whole weekend's total shoppers.