NASHUA — Allan Galdamez decided that, this year, the turkey could wait.
On Thursday evening, the Waltham resident was the first person in line at Sears at the Pheasant Lane Mall here after arriving at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. His plan: grab a 50-inch television for $299 and head home for a belated Thanksgiving dinner.
“We’re just going to get in and get it and get out,” he said.
The doors opened at 7:50 p.m. Ten minutes later Galdamez emerged successful.
Galdamez was among hundreds of people lined up outside Sears and Target in Nashua on Thursday, hoping to score the kinds of deals more typically offered up in the early hours of Friday morning.
Store openings on Black Friday, the traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season, have crept earlier and earlier for the past several years. This year, major retailers across the country pushed up their start times even further, opening their doors to shoppers fresh from finishing off their pumpkin pie.
Massachusetts blue laws, however, prohibit most stores from opening on Thanksgiving, forcing eager shoppers to either wait until after midnight or drive to a neighboring state to score the best deals. And many did; at least half of the cars parked at Pheasant Lane Mall on Thursday evening sported Massachusetts license plates.
Nationally, 17 percent of consumers — some 41 million people — planned to shop on Thursday, according to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group, and investment bank Goldman Sachs. Walmart, one of the retailers that opened stores on Thanksgiving, estimated that about 22 million shopped at its stores on Thursday.
For Chelmsford resident Carol Mehigan, who was waiting for the doors to open at Sears, hitting the mall is no different than any other form of Thanksgiving night entertainment.
“The guys are at home watching football — we can shop,” said Mehigan, who was hoping to buy a discounted television for her oldest grandson.
Galdamez wished that a store closer to home — somewhere in Massachusetts — had been open and offering the same deals.
The Retailers Association of Massachusetts has called on state policy makers to consider allowing shopping on Thanksgiving to help local retailers compete with online competitors and those in other states. Massachusetts is one of three New England state that prohibit shopping on Thanksgiving, rules based on 17th-century blue laws. The other states are Maine and Rhode Island.