For 7-year-old Savannah Finnerty, eyeing a toy microwave at Toys R Us in New York's Times Square was a cool way to spend Thanksgiving night.
That was the game plan for many of the experienced Black Friday shoppers in line at Toys R Us in Times Square, after the store moved its holiday doorbusters up to the earliest time ever -- 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
"It's like a religion," said Danielle Crews, 30, who has shopped every Black Friday for the past five years. She waited in line at Toys R Us starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, then planned to make a pit-stop at home for a late evening dinner before heading out to Urban Outfitters, H&M and FootLocker.
"I'll squeeze in Thanksgiving, but then I probably won't get home again until 12 noon tomorrow."
At Toys R Us, the deals started with more than 200 doorbusters, including a $20 store gift card and $30 iTunes card with the purchase of an Apple (Fortune 500)iPod touch. ,
Electronics like the Nintendo WiiU and a "buy one, get one for $1" deal on video games were some of the hot items that lured many of the early customers to the store.
"We called ahead to scope out how long the lines were," said Jeremy Gervais, a 24-year-old New Yorker, who planned to head straight to the electronics section for a doorbuster deal offering a free Air Flo Controller with the purchase of a Sony PS3 gaming console.
He had lined up four hours early to get the bundle.
Meanwhile, Heather Singleton, 34, also lined up early to get the WiiU, not to give as a gift -- but to sell on eBay.
"I heard it's really popular this year. We'll decide later if we want to keep it or sell it to pay for our other Christmas gifts," she said. She did the same with the Xbox and Wii in prior years, and was able to earn $50 to $100 each by reselling the items online after they were sold out in some stores.
Singleton also filled up two other shopping bags with toys for her son and 12 nephews and nieces, including flash card games, a mini plastic golf set for $7.50 and a Home Depot toy tool set, normally priced around $26, for $9.99.
Stores have been gunning to be the first to open for the big annual holiday sales. This year, Toys R Us and Walmart (Fortune 500) both opened at 8 p.m. ,
"Our customers love the earlier opening," said Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch.
Nationwide, fewer shoppers are expected in stores this Black Friday weekend, but sales are nevertheless expected to be strong.
Johnny Prowitt, 21, plans to spend about $500 on gifts for his 4-year-old daughter Angelina, including a LeapPad 2 tablet, Disney Princess dresses and a mermaid Dora the Explorer doll.
He works at a shoe store in Times Square and headed over to Toys R Us as soon as his shift was over.
"I spoil her. She's my princess," he said. "I worked all day today and I missed Thanksgiving to make sure I can get gifts for her. But it's okay. There's a plate of leftovers waiting for me when I get home."
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