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NEWORLEANS-- Thousands of people waited for hours across the New Orleans metro area looking for deals for Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season.

Shoppers crowded major retailers at the big shopping spots like Lakeside Mall. The mall opened around 11 p.m. Thanksgiving to let shoppers wait inside the mall and outside various stores as opening times varied.

Big crowds awaited the opening of Macy's, Dick's Sporting Goods and Zales at midnight. Dozens waited outside J.C. Penney for the store open at 6 a.m., and by 7 a.m. most of the stores in Lakeside Mall had opened.

'We've seen big-time crowds out here today,' said David Columb, the marketing director for Lakeside Mall. 'We opened the doors at 11 p.m. to let people get in and get their spot. It helped a lot with the crowd control. We've had unbelievable people out here, people looking for deals.'

Local retailers like jeweler Mignon Faget also joined in the Black Friday shopping frenzy, opening their doors early at 6 a.m. 'Six a.m. is a sweet spot for us; it's a good time. It gives shoppers a chance to warm up,' said Coeli Hilferty, store manager for Mignon Faget. The store debuted some new lines to entice shoppers.

Some stores opened even before Black Friday, as stores like Toys R Us opened their doors earlier than ever before, starting at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night. Hours before the store opened hundreds were already in line at the Metairie store.

Stores are hoping the extended shopping hours help their bottom line.

'We were standing outside whenever the mall opened,' said one shopper named Emily who was still shopping strong at 7 a.m at Lakeside Mall.

'Everything is so much cheaper and whenever you buy one thing, you get another thing for free,' she said when asked why she skips sleeping and braves the Black Friday crowds.

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