Black Friday creeps into Black Thursday to kick off the holiday shopping season

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Black Friday made serious inroads into Thursday, getting off to its earliest start ever as the nation's shoppers put down their turkey and headed to the malls.

Black Friday openings have crept earlier and earlier over the past few years, since that's when many stores make their profit for the year. This year, stores opened as early as Thanksgiving evening.

Target, Sears and Toys R Us were among those that opened their doors late on Thanksgiving, while scores of other stores across the country from Macy's to Old Navy to Best Buy opened at midnight on Black Friday.

When Macy's flagship Herald Square store in New York opened, about 11,000 shoppers showed up.

Retailers are hoping that the earlier openings will help boost sales this holiday season. It is unclear how many shoppers planned to take advantage of the midnight openings on Black Friday. But about 17 percent of shoppers said earlier this month that they planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving, according to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers.

Overall, it's estimated that sales on Black Friday will be up 3.8 percent.