IRVING -- Some North Texas families skipped the turkey Thursday and headed directly to the retail stores.
More than a dozen major retailers from Target to Toys R Us opened on Thanksgiving Day, prompting shoppers across the country to get a jump start on holiday shopping season. The Thanksgiving openings come despite planned protests across the country from workers' groups that are against employees missing Thanksgiving meals at home with their families.
The holiday openings also are a break with tradition. The day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday for a decade had been considered the official start to the holiday buying season. It's also typically the biggest shopping day of the year.
But in the past few years, retailers have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night to outdo each other and vie for holiday dollars. They've also pushed up discounting that used to be reserved for Black Friday into early November, which has led retail experts to question whether Thanksgiving will steal some of Black Friday's thunder.
In fact, data shows that Thanksgiving openings last year took a bite out of Black Friday: Sales on turkey day were $810 million last year, an increase of 55 percent from the previous year as more stores opened on the holiday, according to Chicago research firm ShopperTrak. But business dropped 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion on Black Friday, though it still was the biggest shopping day last year.
This year, Angel Aguilar and his family spent Wednesday night outside an Irving Best Buy –– one of many families who got a jump on the typical Black Friday midnight opening.
"We're getting TV's and an iMac, [and] we're going to see what other toys we can get," Aguilar said.
The line outside the Best Buy in North Dallas stretched to 300 people. Summa was waiting since 8 a.m. Thursday morning.
"If you don't got nothing to do, what the hell -- might as well," said Alexis Morales, who was first in line at a Best Buy in North Dallas.
It seems that every year holiday decorations come up sooner, and this year is no different for the holiday shoping season.
Much like how holiday decorations show up sooner at department stores each year, a wave of sale prices rolled in right at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Among the big sellers at Walmart was a 32-inch TV for just under $100.
With prices so low, many retailers had to seriously consider saftey to keep holiday crowds under control.
"We have also worked with a third-party company to establish crowd management plans and we are going to focucs on three areas: injury, flow through the stores, and flow through the checkout and out of the building," said Mike Hart, the market manager for Walmart.
Unlike years past, when the doors opened at 6 p.m., people slowly trickled in. Nobody was trampled.
"I waited two hours and saved 550 bucks," Scott Hayes said.
Retailers' strategy is to lure shoppers in early and often, including on Thanksgiving. But the stores face challenges in doing that.
Some workers have petitions on change.org to protest against Target and Best Buy. The Retail Action Project, a labor-backed group of retail workers, also is planning to have members visiting customers at stores including Gap and Victoria's Secret in midtown Manhattan to educate them about the demands on workers.
The issue is part of a broader campaign against Walmart's treatment of workers that's being waged by a union-backed group called OUR Walmart, which includes former and current workers. The group is staging demonstrations and walkouts at hundreds of stores around the country on Friday.
Brooke Buchanan, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the discounter has received "really good feedback" from employees about working the holiday.
Walmart said workers get additional holiday pay for working on Thanksgiving. Walmart is also serving meals at the stores and is giving employees a 25 percent discount on a single purchase.
But Wal-Mart worker Cindy Murray, 57, shrugged off the perks and said she won't be able to sit down for a Thanksgiving meal with her family until after her nine-hour shift ends at 4 p.m. Murray says the company can't put a price on the holiday.
"If they want to do something for us, they will go back to the old tradition," said Murray, who lives in Hayettsville, Md.