New Orleans — If you open, they will come.

And that they did at stores across the metro New Orleans area on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

Lines began to form outside of Sears and Target at the Clearview Mall in Metairie shortly after sunset on Thanksgiving night as shoppers prepared for marathon sales that began as early as 8 p.m. and would continue for more than 24 hours in some instances.

The real crush of activity began early Friday, though.

In Slidell, Susie Lumpkin, her sisters and nieces began their Black Friday shopathon at midnight, hitting Sears at North Shore Square first. By 6:30 a.m., she looked tired but was laden with merchandise to take home to Picayune, Miss.

Inside the department store, lines of shoppers at the register reached halfway to the back of the building.

Lumpkin said she and her family shop Black Friday every year, but this year’s shopping was the best experience yet.

“It’s been best on prices, and it’s been real smooth, well-organized,’’ she said of the crowds and lines.

She shopped for bargains on small appliances — “the $8 waffle iron, dishes.’’ She found nearly everything she came for but was disappointed that the waffle iron she hoped to snag at JCPenney was already gone. On the plus side, however, her Christmas shopping was finished.

“I’m done,’’ she said.

Sisters Natalie Perez and Michelle Walker, from Tampa, Fla., and Atlanta, respectively, were in town to visit family for Thanksgiving when they made their Black Friday trek.

“She (Perez) talked me into it,’’ said Walker, who said she doesn’t usually shop on the busiest day of the year.

The sisters hit Victoria’s Secret at North Shore Square mall and Toys R Us, and said they figured they saved about $150.

“It wasn’t as crowded as I’ve seen it,’’ Perez said. “It wasn’t people camped out and sleeping bags.’’

The sisters bought iTunes cards for their preteen daughters at Toys R Us, getting $15 off a $50 purchase. But they admitted that the trip to Victoria’s Secret was for themselves.

“We’re not very giving,’’ Perez said with a laugh.

But neither finished her shopping.

“I’m waiting for Cyber Monday,” Perez said, adding she’s done most of her Christmas spending then instead of Black Friday in recent years. She hopes to find bargains on American Girl dolls for her daughters “but they don’t tell you what the sales are until the day of.”

Chelsea Thomas, 22, stifled a yawn as she and her friend Hunter Harris got ready to pull away from North Shore Square with just one item, a pair of Vans shoes for Harris. “I’ve never gotten up this early in my life, except for school,’’ she said.

While Lakeside Shopping Center didn’t officially open until 6 a.m. Friday, 32 stores at the Metairie mall began to ring up sales at midnight. Those stores chose to open at the same time as Macy’s, which was one of many national retailers that decided this year to open earlier than last year.

Kim Bush and a friend began their shopping about 9:30 p.m. Thursday at Wal-Mart, where Bush bought a 32-inch flatscreen TV for $148. They arrived at Lakeside before dawn to wait for JCPenney to open at 6 a.m. so they could finish buying Christmas presents before heading home nearly 12 hours after they made their first purchase.

In front of the Build-A-Bear store, Candace Navarre and her friends also waited for 6 a.m. to arrive. One girl slept on the floor using her purse as a pillow.

The big discount at Build-a-Bear? There wasn’t any, but the 5-year-old cousin of Navarre’s friend had been shopping with them since 7 p.m. Thursday, and the only thing she wanted was one of the bears.

The group had been to three malls as well as a few other mega-retailers during their outing.

“It’s tiring,” Navarre said as she sat against the wall.

The overnight vigils and frenetic pace of shoppers who jostled one another in an effort to grab discounted items seemed to be limited to the suburban malls.

A steady stream of people walked through the Shops at Canal Place in New Orleans, but there were no crowds to muscle through and only a small number of people who waited for stores to open. The worst of the rush seemed to happen when Larry Dauterive, assistant general manager at Saks Fifth Avenue, unlocked the doors to the shoe section.

“I just put the key in the door and stood back,” he said with a laugh.

Allison Richard, the manager of Banana Republic’s Canal Place store, described the morning as “tame” compared to malls such as Lakeside.

That’s part of what brought Michelle Moore to the Central Business District shopping center.

The Los Angeles woman and her mother, who celebrate Thanksgiving in New Orleans each year, walked in at 8:15 a.m., made a few purchases and were trying to decide shortly after 10 a.m. if they wanted to find breakfast and return later in the day.

“This is a friendly environment,” said Moore, who was wide awake. “You don’t have to elbow your way around.”

Back in Metairie, Todd Jobe was bleary-eyed and had trouble remembering all of the locations he visited during the outing that started about 9 p.m. Thursday.

Jobe said it is a family tradition, though usually, he was able to get in a nap in between the holiday meal and shopping trip. This year, he hadn’t.

Asked why he spent the entire night shopping, Jobe had a simple answer: “Because the wife wants to go.”