Eager Acadiana-area shoppers rushed through the aisles, piling televisions, toys and video game systems into overstuffed carts as early as 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and into the early morning hours on Black Friday.

For millions of people, the day after Thanksgiving is the time to do some serious Christmas shopping. And for businesses, it’s an effort to push their sales forward into the “black” zone, the color that represents a profit on balance sheets.

However, every year, major retail stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Old Navy and Best Buy open their doors earlier and earlier, cutting into the holiday celebrations.

“We’ve been shopping since last night because if you don’t, you miss out,” Target customer Julie Broussard said on Friday morning at the retailer’s Ambassador Caffery Parkway location. “Black Friday crowds are intense, but it’s going to be just as bad the closer it gets to Christmas, so I’d rather fight it now than wait until everything’s gone and I can’t find any decent deals.”

Major retail ads displayed deals like 50-inch TVs for as low as $218 and iPad Minis for under $200.

With a horde of shoppers expected all weekend, the Lafayette Transit System provided complimentary transit services to riders on Friday as well as on Saturday, when consumers are encouraged to shop local small businesses. Acadiana Transit, which provides nighttime and paratransit service, also provided complimentary services those two days.

Even with competing retailers opening the day before Black Friday and offering door-buster deals, several businesses chose to remain closed on Thanksgiving.

“Academy values their associates and gives us a day to be with our families,” said Tara Blanchard, manager of the sports and outdoors retailer’s store at 4242 Ambassador Caffery Parkway, “but most of our hot deals have been available the entire week.”

Blanchard said at least 500 people lined the store’s perimeter Friday morning waiting for the doors to open at 5 a.m. The first person who entered the store had been there since 1 a.m.

Despite the sizable crowds that continue to flock to stores, a growing number of customers are taking their shopping lists online.

Online retailers, like Amazon, drew consumers in with weeklong deals prior to Black Friday, so they could take advantage of similar savings without the holiday madness.

According to shopping analytics firm ShopperTrak, Thanksgiving and Black Friday combined brought in an estimated $12.3 billion in sales in 2013 — almost $2 billion was in online sales alone.

Best Buy customer Joel Richard said he waited several months before purchasing a new television because he knew he could save hundreds of dollars on Black Friday.

But, he said, most of his shopping will be done online.

“A TV isn’t something I want to have shipped because you don’t know what kind of damage could be done,” Richard said. “Everything else, I’d rather just order. You’d think they were giving this stuff away for free with the way some people act. It’s a mad-house, and if I can avoid the crowds, I will. People can get downright mean when it involves a good deal, and I’m not about to fight someone over a TV.”

Broussard, the customer at Target who filled her cart with televisions, a camera and several Lego sets, said her purchases were nothing but impulsive — a confession shared by several other shoppers pushing around similarly loaded carts.

“You see it and you grab it before anyone else can get to it because your mind goes into a shopping, survival-like mode,” Broussard said. “I don’t need two TVs. I don’t plan on giving my kids all of these toys, but if I don’t grab it now, I may decide I want it, and it won’t be there anymore.”

Once the Black Friday deals end on Sunday, consumers will have another bite at the shopping apple with Cyber Monday’s deals.