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Black Friday backed into Thanksgiving this year as many stores opened Thursday evening.

For many shoppers, standing in line at a store Thanksgiving evening is nothing new and even somewhat of a tradition.

Chris Robertson of La Plata, his wife Stephanie and their friend Jackie Vayro of Indian Head have been Black Friday shopping for several years. For the past five years, they have been part of the crowds that stand in line outside of stores for hours, awaiting the early-morning openings.

Robertson said stores opening as early as 8 p.m. Thanksgiving didn’t make much sense.

“I don’t see how stores benefit from it at all,” he said.

For the earlier openings, he and his crew of shoppers planned earlier Thanksgiving meals in order to hit the lines outside of their first choice stores.

According to a national survey, many shoppers across the country had the same idea.

Thirty-five million Americans visited retailers’ stores and websites Thursday up from 29 million last year according to a news release from the National Retail Federation.

Robertson and Vayro stood outside Toys R Us in Waldorf while Stephanie Robertson stood in line outside of the nearby Target.

Chris Robertson said Target opened an hour later than Toys R Us and he and Vayro would meet Stephanie Robertson after checking off their list of purchases at the toy store.

The group had a master list of all the items they wanted, how much each item cost and where each item could be located.

Organization, Vayro said, is critical when Black Friday shopping.

The group purchases items for all of the children in their families on Black Friday and has planning meetings in the weeks leading up to the night.

“We live for this night,” Vayro said with a smile.

The traditional Black Friday sales brought 89 million shoppers to stores across the U.S. on Black Friday, according to the retail federation release, which gathers information from a survey conducted by BIGinsight.

Planning comes into play with a lot of Black Friday weekend shoppers.

“If you don’t plan ahead, you will get lost,” said Pam Byus of Waldorf.

Byus was shopping with her daughter Nichole on Thursday evening.

Byus said she has stood in lines outside of stores the night before they open for about seven years.

One of her fondest memories does not involve a great deal, though she has had many, including an all-terrain vehicle she got for half price.

Byus said her fondest memory was in 2010 when she was standing in line at Best Buy in Waldorf waiting for the doors to open when her daughter called and said she was going into labor.

“I called her out of line,” Nichole Byus said. Her grandchild, born on Black Friday, was the greatest deal that day, as far as Byus was concerned.

Byus said she isn’t always on the lookout for a particular item. What gets her out in lines is mostly the excitement of the evening.

“Coming out, meeting people and trying to find that one deal,” she said.

First in line at Toys R Us in Waldorf was a group of three who were in their fourth year of hitting stores as they open on Black Friday, or in this case, Thursday.

Waldorf residents Stephanie Buckler and Tabitha Rea, along with Dawn Brown of Upper Marlboro, got to the toy store at 2:45 p.m. Thursday to wait in line for a game console that had been sold out since its recent release.

The three shoppers thought the Thursday evening opening was more convenient than the typical early Friday openings, especially for those who had to work Friday.

She might not have been working in the traditional sense, but Mary Gott of Port Republic made it her job to purchase gifts for more than 40 family members Friday.

Gott began her Waldorf shopping trip at 4 a.m. and was seen running through the mall around 10 a.m., making a trip to a relative’s car to drop packages off and return for more deals.

Gott said she has been Black Friday shopping for 20 years and the trick is “cash.” She said she saves up money all year to do cash transactions, which saves her time on her shopping adventure.

Taking a look at some receipts, Gott said she had saved roughly $375 through Black Friday deals.

According to the release and estimates, 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the Black Friday weekend. The average holiday shopper spent $423, and total spending reached $59.1 billion.

The release states that numbers reported in the survey are from sales Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with projected sales from Sunday.

Robertson said he enjoys Black Friday shopping but that it wasn’t really shopping.

“You don’t go shopping on Black Friday, you go ‘getting,’” he said.

gphillips@somdnews.com