Nov. 22, 2012— -- Black Friday is the Super Bowl of retail, but some of the nation's largest big-box stores can't wait until the day after Thanksgiving to open their doors to shoppers eager to grab great deals the same day as their turkey dinners.
Traditional Black Friday door-busting deals now start tonight, on what's been dubbed Gray Thursday. Major retail stores such as Kmart, Toys R Us, Walmart and Sears will open their doors beginning at 8 p.m. Target will join the party an hour later.
"It's traditionally been the day after Thanksgiving when the stores go into the black, where they make all their money. But that's not true anymore," retail expert Michelle Madhock said.
With Black Friday sales starting Thursday, that means lines started forming Wednesday, or in some extreme cases a week before as bargain hunters tried to get a turkey leg up on their competition.
Luciana Pendleton pitched a tent outside a Deptford Township, N.J., Best Buy Monday fully equipped with all she needed to spend the next few days away from home so she could be first in line when the doors open.
"I am just happy I beat my competition. They pulled up here around 3 p.m., and we were already here so I was happy," she said Monday.
Last year, some sale seekers became a little too excited and turned holiday shopping into a contact sport. In one ugly incident, a woman was accused of unleashing pepper spray on other shoppers in a dash for electronics at Walmart in Los Angeles.
This year, stores are beefing up security, and Best Buy even participated in training drills to handle the large crowds. More than 147 million people plan to shop this weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.
The hottest deals that are up for grabs this year include a 46-inch Samsung LED flat screen TV at Walmart with $200 off the original price. If that's not good enough, Sears has knocked $500 off the price of a 50-inch Toshiba flat screen. Target is offering the Nook Simple Touch at half price.
Black Friday officially kicks off at midnight for Best Buy, Sports Authority and Macy's.