Shoppers head out for Gray Thursday

Shoppers head out for Gray Thursday

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ATLANTA -

The holiday shopping season kicked off much earlier this year, as at least a dozen national retail chains from Macy's to Gap to Target opened their stores on Thanksgiving Day. The holiday openings came despite planned protests from workers' rights groups that are opposed to employees working on the holiday instead of spending the day with family.

The holiday openings are a break with tradition. The day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday, for a decade had been considered the official start to the holiday buying season. It's also typically the biggest shopping day of the year.

But in the past few years, retailers have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night. They've also pushed up discounting that used to be reserved for Black Friday into early November, which has led retail experts to question whether the Thanksgiving openings will steal some of Black Friday's thunder.

Overall, The National Retail Federation expects retail sales to be up 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion during the last two months of the year. That's higher than last year's 3.5 percent growth, but below the 6 percent pace seen before the recession.

Analysts expect sales to be generated at the expense of profits as retailers will likely have to do more discounting to get people into stores.

Click on video above for FOX 5 Team Coverage of Gray Thursday

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