For some people, it's not the music or the decorations that mark the start of the holiday season -- it's the deals.
"It's just a fun family thing," said Ruth Hipp, a shopper.
"It's the day we work for all year," said Nan Gray, the marketing and sponsorship director for Northlake Mall.
Gray said the mall has planned for security to be ramped up Friday and all weekend. That means more officers and more mobile units.
She says they want to the focus to be on retail, that 40 percent of their sales will come in the next six weeks.
"What happens today sets precedent for what happens the whole season," she said.
Already, Gray says the mall has seen some promising signs.
"We count sales and how many bags they are carrying when they walk down the hallway -- so we do see an uptick in that," said Gray.
Shoppers we spoke with say the deals are good, that they are the same as last year, sometimes better.
"More successful than other years, better deals, less crowds," said Zack Tarlton, a shopper.
And with more stores opening earlier, those we caught later in the day say the crowds are more bearable.
"It's a much more pleasant experience," Hipp said.
Eyewitness News asked shoppers how their budgets compare to the last few years. One shopper told us they're still being cautious and spending about the same. Another says she's more confident about the economy and willing to spend more.
"It's coming back, it's slower, but slow means steady. I think we are on our way back," said shopper Kathy Smith.