The holiday shopping season kicked off much earlier this year, as several retailers opened their stores on Thanksgiving Day. Many shoppers didn't like that, but went out anyway. The sales continued through Friday.
The day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday, is typically the biggest shopping day of the year. For a decade, it had been considered the official start of the holiday buying season. But in the past few years, retailers have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night. They've also pushed up discounting that used to be reserved for Black Friday into early November, which has led retail experts to question whether the Thanksgiving openings will steal some of Black Friday's thunder.
The holiday openings came despite threatened protests from workers' rights groups, which are opposed to employees working on the holiday instead of spending the day with family.
Overall, the National Retail Federation expects retail sales to be up 4 percent to $602 billion during the last two months of the year. That's higher than last year's 3.5 percent growth, but below the 6 percent pace seen before the 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.
Here's how the start of the holiday shopping season is playing out. All times are EST, unless otherwise specified.
— Friday, 9:05 a.m.: Online shopper joins sister for Black Friday retail frenzy
Jill Teal said she does most of her shopping online, but she was out at Kohl's department store in Clifton Park with her sister, Judy Espey. Their shopping trip started at 4 a.m.
Espey, the mother of three children ages 12 to 16, said her purchases included the Beats line of headphones and speakers.
She actually began her shopping Thursday night, when she ducked out after having dinner with her family to buy a 50-inch flat-screen television at Wal-Mart for $288. But said she's not thrilled that stores now open on Thanksgiving, believing that it takes away from the fun of shopping with friends on Black Friday.