While the holiday shopping season typically kicks off today - Black Friday - many stores across the nation have broken with tradition and begun offering bargains on Thanksgiving Day.
Local stores, including Walgreens, Kmart, Big Lots and Wal-Mart, were open to shoppers Thursday.
"We opened at 6 a.m. and there were probably 20 people already standing outside the front door, but it's basically been just like any other shopping day," said Peggy Pritchard, a service desk associate at Kmart.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Angie Elliott, left, and Lawrence Deberry of St. Marys check out one of the early shopper bargains at the Kmart store in Marietta Thursday morning. Kmart was among a few local stores open for shopping Thanksgiving Day.
Fellow associate Kandi Baker said those waiting at the door Thursday morning were looking for some of the store's advertised Thanksgiving Day bargains.
"We already knew how much stock we had for each item and handed tickets to the people standing outside for the items they wanted," she said. "Most were waiting for electronics like DVD players and televisions we had on sale. The opening went very well."
Baker noted the Kmart store also opened early on Thanksgiving last year to give customers an extra day of holiday shopping. This year the store opened at 6 a.m. Thursday and won't close until 11 p.m. tonight.
Holiday shopping forecast:
The National Retail Federation expects retail sales to be up 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion during the last two months of this year. That's higher than last year's 3.5 percent growth, but below the 6 percent pace seen before the 2008 recession.
Analysts expect sales to be generated at the expense of profits as retailers will likely have to do more discounting to get people into stores. More than two dozen stores including Kohl's and Wal-Mart have already lowered their profit outlooks for the year.
Store openings on Thanksgiving Day are part of retailers' holiday strategy of trying to lure shoppers in early and often during the holiday shopping season.
Source: The Associated Press
"Personally I think we'll see a lot more customers on Black Friday," she said. "Most people traditionally wait until then to shop."
Pritchett said many people want to spend Thanksgiving Day with their families, then head out to the stores on Friday.
Steve Ross of Marietta agreed.
"I'm not looking for Christmas sales today, just for a pair of work boots. And I think most people want to stay home with family on Thanksgiving," he said Thursday.
But St. Marys, W.Va., residents Lawrence Deberry and Angie Elliott were out to find holiday shopping bargains Thursday morning.
"I start shopping on Thanksgiving every year, but this is the first time I've talked him into coming along," Elliott said. "We'll shop all night long until 11 a.m. Friday, and by then I'll have all of my Christmas shopping done."
Deberry said the couple would take a break for lunch.
"We're going to my aunt's house for Thanksgiving dinner, then we'll head for the mall in Parkersburg," he said.
Elliott said she has some ethical concern that stores open for shopping on Thanksgiving Day.
"But if they're open and offer some good sales, then I'm going to be taking advantage of that," she said. "I've done this for years, and it helps me to beat the Christmas shopping crowds."
Karen Zoller of Reno was also out shopping early Thursday.
"You get some pretty good prices on Thanksgiving morning," she said. "I do this every year and am already nearly done with my shopping-only a couple more things to pick up."
Zoller started at the Marietta Walgreens store Thursday morning.
"They had some great sales," she said. "Toys were half price. That's great because I have five grandchildren."
Zoller said she would head home for a traditional family Thanksgiving dinner, then go back out for some shopping with her daughter Thursday evening.
Serena Thrasher, an associate at Walgreens, said the store opened at 8 a.m. Thursday and several people were waiting at the door.
"We're running a three-day sale for the weekend, but there were also some one-day sales on Thanksgiving," she said. "But there will probably be more people here on Black Friday. Last year there were people in our parking lot long before opening."
Jack and Judy Campbell of Lower Salem were at the Wal-Mart in Marietta Thursday morning. The store is open 24 hours a day, including Thanksgiving.
"We're just picking up our last Christmas gift items from layaway today," Jack said. "We usually put a lot of stuff on layaway, and would like to see stores offer it yearround. The economy is still down, and I think people need some sort of relief."
Judy Campbell said they tried Black Friday shopping a couple years ago, but prefer to avoid the crowds.
"It was OK. People really seemed to be watching out for one another and helping each other out," she said. "And we found some pretty good bargains."
Thanksgiving openings had an impact on Black Friday sales last year. According to ShopperTrak, a Chicago research firm, Thanksgiving sales were $810 million in 2012, an increase of 55 percent from the previous year as more stores opened on the holiday.
Sales decreased 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion on Black Friday last year, although it still was the biggest shopping day of 2012.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.