NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Shoppers turned out in droves at malls and big-box stores around the country, taking advantage of Black Friday deals as retailers opened their doors earlier than ever on Thanksgiving.
According to early estimates, the late evening openings are paying off.
Toys R Us, Wal-Mart and Sears got a head start on the big shopping weekend by opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That's even earlier than last year, when the toy retailer got a 9 p.m. start and Wal-Mart , the world's largest retailer, opened at 10 p.m. Sears opened at 4 a.m. last year on Black Friday.
"By opening even earlier, the retailers have been able to attract a broader spectrum of consumers to participate in Black Friday -- not everyone is willing to wake up at 4 a.m.," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group. "They definitely got a lot more business early and upfront."
The crowd at the Toys R Us in New York's Times Square started gathering about four hours ahead of the open, and was larger than it was last year, said CEO Jerry Storch.
"Our customers love the earlier opening," said Storch. "The atmosphere is celebratory and the crowds have been happy and excited to start their holiday shopping."
While shoppers were excited for the deals, particularly electronics such as the Nintendo WiiU and a "buy one, get one for $1" deal on video games, many did have to rearrange their Thanksgiving dinner plans in order to take advantage of this year's earlier opening. Many planned to shop, and then eat a late dinner.