In an effort to make shopping convenient for customers, stores opened earlier on Thanksgiving night to attract shoppers who did not want to wait until midnight or early morning hours Friday.

Such was the excitement for shopping that many altered their Thanksgiving dinner to accommodate mega shopping plans, USA Today has reported.

Toys R Us opened at 8 p.m. reportedly an hour earlier than last year. And Target opened shop at 9 p.m. three hours earlier than 2011. Black Friday newbies and seasoned veterans made it to the queue.

A handful of chains such as Kmart and Old Navy also had daytime hours Thursday. And online merchants were touting bargains all day and night.

About 147 million shoppers were expected this all-important holiday weekend, with more logging into online specials by Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). In all, the trade group estimated that holiday sales are likely to rise 4.1% this year, to $586 billion.

"Though the Black Friday tradition is here to stay, there's no question that it has changed in recent years," NRF Chief Executive Matthew Shay said in a statement.

In comparison to Black Friday specials, the current sales do not appear flamboyant, the Los Angeles Times reported, adding that stores intended to roll out more specials later. However, shoppers noted that sales appear to be fairly good this holiday season.

The NRF estimates that up to 147 million shoppers will visit stores and shop online during the Black Friday weekend, USA Today has pointed out.

Check out some of the first images of the shopping frenzy that is empowering the Black Friday deals and sales this season: