Waterford — Carolina Trevejo of New London enlisted her husband, brother, sister, cousins and father to help her stand in line outside Best Buy for doorbuster deals Thursday.
The nine-hour wait, taken in shifts starting at 8:53 a.m., paid off: The group was first in line, ahead of more than 100 people waiting in the cold to catch the best Black Friday deals offered at the electronics store, which for the first time opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
"We were thinking since it was (called) Black Friday — we were hoping it was Friday," said Trevejo, who nevertheless was enticed by the deals. "We were thinking we would spend Thanksgiving with our family."
Many customers who left their Thanksgiving celebrations early to wait in line outside area stores echoed Trevejo's sentiment, saying they would rather keep Black Friday on Friday and felt bad for the retail employees who had to work on the holiday. But at the same time, they said they had to come out because the best sales were offered early.
More retailers and malls across America were opening their doors for the first time on Thanksgiving Day, including Best Buy, Crystal Mall, Kohl's and Staples, while stores that opened on Thanksgiving Day last year opened their doors even earlier this year.
For the second year in a row, Books-A-Million in Waterford opened at noon.
"We made the decision (to open earlier) because we know that our customers are shopping earlier and earlier," said Maggie Habashy, spokeswoman for Best Buy. "We just wanted to give them the option of shopping early on and have deals throughout the night."
Alycia Kneeland of Gales Ferry said she is a regular Black Friday shopper and that she would go out whether the doors opened at 2 a.m. on Friday or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. But her sister Angela Contillo of Norwich said there was no way she would have gone out at 2 a.m. and wasn't so sure she should have agreed to wait in line Thursday night.
They weren't prepared for the weather — the temperature hovered in the lower 30s Thursday — Contillo said as the two shivered, wrapped in an Afghan blanket. She was planning to buy a $177 Dell laptop, while her sister was going to purchase two Canon PowerShot cameras for $79 each, Contillo said.
Some families moved their Thanksgiving meals to a completely different day, in part to catch the sales.
Meghan Poehler of Pawcatuck said she and her family got to Toys R Us at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday and sat in their car until others showed up. At the front of the line, they sat in chairs and were covered in blankets.
Though they were there to catch great sales, Poehler said she thought standing in line on Thanksgiving Day took away from the Black Friday atmosphere.
"Even though you are freezing and even more cold, I would rather it be midnight," Poehler said.
The store opened at 5 p.m. — three hours earlier than last year. Target and Wal-Mart also opened earlier this year compared to last year.
Poehler said she wanted to purchase five Polaroid tablets and a Disney Infinity video game for the eight children in her extended family.
"I can't afford it when I have to pay the regular price," she said.
She and her mother planned to be finished with 95 percent of their Christmas shopping by 5:45 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and have Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday.
Before the doors opened, Toys R Us staff members handed out tickets to regulate the sale of items the store had in stock. Best Buy employees did the same and had their own pep rally before the doors opened. Different staff members stood on the main counter and gave quick speeches while staff members stood in a half circle cheering and clapping. After a group pile-up and final cheers, they let in shoppers 20 at a time.
Trevejo's group worked efficiently.
A couple of her family members grabbed the first 39-inch Insignia television they saw while others split up in the store. Their cart filled up quickly, and Trevejo said they were buying more than they had planned to.
"That always happens," she said.
Each time another 20 shoppers were let into the building, the Best Buy staff members clapped and cheered.
Kelli Fletcher, spokeswoman for the Crystal Mall, which opened for the first time on Thanksgiving Day this year, said they did so to offer "bargain-hungry" shoppers convenience and to accommodate retailers who were faced with a shorter sales window between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Target spokesman Antoine LaFromboise said Target elected to open one hour earlier this year to remain competitive and to meet the needs of its guests.
"Last year, we saw the benefit of opening earlier, with many families coming out to shop and record crowds across the country," LaFromboise said.
The holiday season accounts for 20 to 40 percent of retailers' annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation, a retail trade association. The association said it predicts an increase of 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion in yearly sales during the November to December period, up from 3.5 percent last year.