Shoppers camped outside of the Lizard Thicket boutique at Merchant’s Walk on Friday to get freebies. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

Black Friday rush starts early in metro Atlanta

Shoppers actually kicked off Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year, on Thursday.

But don’t worry if you couldn’t make it out on Thanksgiving Day. The deals, lines and, unfortunately, traffic continued Friday.

RELATED: Black Friday off to strong start

Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys R Us and Wal-Mart joined other stores throughout metro Atlanta that started Black Friday deals at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

Tor Wendel recycles hangers from the checkout stands Friday morning at Kohl's in East Cobb County. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Lenox Square opened at 6 p.m. Thursday, then closed at 1 a.m. Friday and reopened at 6 a.m. Some retailers stayed open overnight.

Spokeswoman Carol Cox said Lenox Square was “definitely the place to be” Thursday, with crowds thickening between 8 and 10 p.m.

Kieshonna Smothers checks out customers at Kohl's in East Cobb County on Friday. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Shoppers passed the square’s new 26-foot illuminated buck head between the Cheesecake Factory restaurant and Macy’s, then trickled into stores Friday morning.

“Everything has been fantastic,” Cox said. “Once again we’re seeing families, and we are a part of their annual shopping traditions.”

RELATED: Black Friday holiday hours at metro Atlanta malls

The early start to Black Friday meant many metro shoppers began camping out Wednesday.

Black Friday shoppers wait for the doors to open at Best Buy in Duluth on Friday morning. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Tae Chun, who was first in line at Best Buy in Duluth, told Channel 2 Action News he set up his tent at 3 p.m. Wednesday hoping to get video games.

“I was actually first last year, too,” he said. “I’ll be here 26 hours by the time they open.”

Kohl's was among retailers opening Thursday evening and staying open until midnight Friday, nearly 30 hours later. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

The store started letting people inside, Chun included, in groups of 50 Thursday.

One shopper, Hanna McGowin, told Channel 2 she wishes stores would go back to starting deals on Friday.

Eden Villafuerto checks out Black Friday sale items at Best Buy on Friday. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

“However, I’m OK with people protesting it being on Thanksgiving,” she said. “It just gives me a better chance of getting what I want.”

MORE: Best Black Friday tech deals from Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Amazon and more

Marcus Buckler, a Best Buy manager in Gwinnett County, told Channel 2 he started prepping two hours before the doors opened and his process included handing out tickets for big items such as flat screen TVs to “ensure there’s not a big rush of customers trying to grab products.”

“It keeps it very organized,” he said.

MORE: Sugarloaf Mills adds 3 new stores just in time for holiday shopping

Just to the west, a smaller store attracted a larger crowd in Cobb County.

More than 100 shoppers waited on the sidewalk outside Lizard Thicket in Cobb County hoping to get a free swag bag. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

At a boutique in Marietta, shoppers — some of whom had waited outside in tents — rushed through the doors of Lizard Thicket on Merchant’s Walk.

The store, which opened at 6 a.m., offered freebies for the first 100 people to enter, Channel 2 reported.

Traffic at other metro Atlanta stores and malls started to pick up as malls opened for the day, according to the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center.

Fewer parking spaces were available.

At about 11:30 a.m., Lenox Square was 90 percent full, Channel 2 reported.

Town Center in Kennesaw was 80 percent full, and Sugarloaf Mills in Lawrenceville was 30 percent full. The Mall of Georgia parking lot was bustling at 85 percent filled to capacity.

With temperatures in the 70s and rain nowhere in sight, shoppers don't have much to deter them from hitting the stores in mass numbers Friday afternoon. But it will be difficult to gauge just how many there are. 

Many metro Atlanta store managers said store policies prevent them from giving Black Friday sales projections, and it’s difficult to project Black Friday sales revenue anyway.

Ramiro Diaz (right) and his son Gabriel load a television onto their cart at Best Buy in Duluth on Friday. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Melissa Goff, a Macy’s spokeswoman, said even without knowing what revenue will be, “we are confident that we are offering holiday gifts with exceptional value.”

“The holiday season is our most important time of the year,” she said.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.