Shoppers looking for a deal were already camped out on Thanksgiving, staking out positions for the inevitable Black Friday retail rush.
Some of the big chains were already open, letting shoppers hunt for bargains a day early.
The National Retail Federation estimates about 135.8 million people will shop this weekend — about 30 million on Thanksgiving and 99.7 million on Black Friday, the Associated Press reports. That's an increase from 133.7 million last year.
All the early gift-buying and deal-seeking is expected to result in a 3.7 percent increase to $630.5 billion in spending through the holiday weekend, according to the trade group.
Financial consulting firm Deloitte predicts shoppers will spend about $369 each.
But the picture is slightly different in Southern California, according to Deloitte's Summer Taylor.
Shoppers here are expected to spend about 2 percent more on gifts, but the slight increase hides some declines, according to Taylor.
"Last year, if you think about the Southern California economy, we did have a rather large uptick in home sales, and that drove a lot of purchases as home decor and furnishing. We're not expecting that level of purchasing this year in that segment, so we're seeing declines in decor and furnishing, and then we're also seeing some declines in non-gifts clothing for the L.A. area," Taylor said.
Overall, Southern California shoppers are expected to buy only slightly more gifts for others than they did last year, and they'll make fewer purchases for themselves, she said.
Clothing is the No. 1 gift item, overtaking gift cards, which held the top spot for the last few years, according to Taylor. Rounding out the list are electronics, games and toys.
"I think the gift card is tending to be perceived as less personal in nature, and so shoppers are looking more for personalized gifts. You can do that through clothing. You can also do that through one-of-a-kind gifts as well," Taylor said.
That's where Small Business Saturday comes in. Following the trend of naming specific retail days around the holidays, American Express created the annual campaign in 2010 to help bolster sales for the mom-and-pop shops of the country.
"The marketing done around Small Business Saturday is actually having a very big impact on shoppers' habits," Taylor said.
Shoppers are moving away from national retailers out of a desire to help local businesses and in a hunt for those "one-of-a-kind" gifts, which might be harder to find at a big chain store.
But some people will be skipping the store altogether.
Retail analyst Rod Sides of Deloitte said early promotions and online shopping have made for a more even flow of shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to AP.
"We'll find a real big flood of folks in the stores on Thanksgiving and probably early on Black Friday but by the middle of the afternoon what we found last year is that it was pretty much just a normal shopping day," Sides said.