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Cash-conscious shoppers gobbled up holiday bargains at major discounters starting on Thanksgiving and rolling into Black Friday.

Walmart, Target, Sears and Kmart reported robust Thanksgiving sales as shoppers stormed their stores in search of discounts on items such as TVs, toys, video games and cameras. Some Sears stores had lines of up to 1,000 people before the stores opened at 8 p.m., says spokeswoman Jamie Stein.

Walmart had more than 22 million shoppers on Thanksgiving Day — and about 10 million register transactions from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. alone, says U.S. CEO Bill Simon.

“We’re a service industry like hotels or airlines and our job is to try to anticipate what the customer wants to do,” Simon says. If the Thanksgiving Day traffic is any indication, customers clearly want to shop on Thursday evening, he says.

At Target, crowds lined up hours before the 8 p.m. opening and traffic remained steady for several hours after it first let customers through its doors, the retailer says.

Bryan Everett, senior vice president of stores, said that strong marketing efforts — such as Target’s store-specific map listing the location of the doorbuster sales — helped to lure in holiday shoppers.

“We had a lot of guests who appreciated that,” he says. “It took a little of the confusion out of the equation.”

Elizabeth Bradley of Wilmington, Del., said Target made Thanksgiving Day shopping easy.

“It was organized,” she says. “You got in and you got out quick. And they had plenty of stock.”

The chains had brisk online sales as well.

Target reported two times more online orders than during last year’s early morning Thanksgiving deals. Toys and electronics were the most popular items, with products such as the iPad Air, large-screen TVs, Nintendo 3DS XL and Zoomer the Robot Dog selling well.

Walmart.com said it processed nearly 400 million page views on Thanksgiving Day. That figure includes customers who used mobile devices and tablets. “There was incredible traffic to walmart.com,” Simon says.

Hand-held video games and SLR digital cameras were among its most popular online sellers.

Walmart.com had some technical issues, but is back up and running, says Simon. “We apologize to anyone who was frustrated,” he says. “They can go back in now and they won’t have any problems.”

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At Target, Walmart and Sears stores, there was a strong turnout of families out shopping after their Thanksgiving meals.

“What we’re seeing here is a new tradition of going out with our family and shopping on Thanksgiving and getting some great deals,” adds Stein of Sears.

Target’s Everett adds: “A couple people had custom T-shirts that said ‘Family Black Friday Shopping 2013.'”

Contributing: Bill McMichael of The (Wilmington) News Journal

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