PALM DESERT, Calif. -

Thousands of people filled Westfield shopping center in Palm Desert on Thanksgiving to get a jump start on Black Friday.  Eager shoppers took their spot in line outside starting at 6 P.M. while car after car drove into the parking lot, all awaiting the mall’s opening at 8 P.M. 

They’re not alone.  According to the National Retail Federation, 33 million people across the country made their way to shopping centers to get a head start on their holiday shopping on Grey Thursday.  Each hoping for the best deal possible.  “I saw a couple things that I’m going to see if I can possibly get one of those,” said Cesar Lopez.  “So I’m just keeping my fingers crossed and seeing what I can find.”

What shoppers found were discounts of 25, 50, even 60% at more than 50 stores inside the mall.  With retailers opening their doors earlier and earlier each year, some shoppers said, they’re still getting used to it.  “Right now, since it’s all new, people would rather spend it with their families I think, and I guess we’re left to benefit.”

 Falling in line with early openings, Westfield opened its doors an hour before stores did, giving people a chance to run to their retailer of choice, then wait inside the mall.  “The Buckle” manager Erin Sorensen hopes shoppers find their way to her store.  The NRF says some places make 40% of their annual sales during the holiday weekend.  “Black Friday’s important overall just because it really kicks off your holiday shopping,” said Soresen.  “And even guests who don’t purchase something this weekend will see something and that will promote future business in the next four weeks.”

Once the gates came up, shoppers quickly made their way in and took full advantage of the doorbusters, leaving with lots of bags and without spending lots of cash.  “Well the economy it makes it so much better with it being 50% off, we can still get all the name brand clothes with the deeper discounts,” said Chelsea Conroy. 

Those discounts are even worth cutting Thanksgiving a little short for some people.   “I can still be with my family and we just have shopping time together,” said Conroy.