By Mike Hellgren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Shoppers crowded into stores in Maryland and across the country on Friday, with some stores opening at 5 a.m., while other shoppers got a jump on the deals Thanksgiving night.

And now the holiday shopping season is officially underway. Bargain shoppers took full advantage of Black Friday deals in Maryland.

“To me, that’s a new level of shoppers paradise,” one Black Friday shopper said.

“I’m looking for all the best deals,” another shopper said.

A strong economy is being cited for a lot of the foot traffic seen in stores Friday.

“Consumer confidence is high and we’re seeing that reflected here on Black Friday with shopping bags, increased traffic in sales,” said Lisa Bisenius, general manager of Towson Town Center.

Nick Wilks had little to complain about his experience at the Towson Town Center, except maybe trying to get inside.

“It’s a lot of people out here, but it’s beautiful, a lot of sales,” Wilks said.

[WJZ Reporter:] “How busy has it been today?” “Oh man it’s not as bad getting around the mall, but parking is terrible, it’s hard to find parking out here, it’s rough,” Wilks said.

That bodes well for many retailers.

A number of brick and mortar retailers are turning to tech, with apps that can show you where the best deals are in stores and online checkout to make things faster.

Stores are also offering deals on big-ticket items, like tablets and phones, which are some of Walmart’s best sellers so far.

Some struggling stores like JcPenny and Macy’s hoped the day, as the name suggests, means earning a profit, or go ‘into the black,’

Retail experts said stores are now working toward satisfying customers on both sides of the aisle, but still ensuring customers will always walk in.

“The new concepts that are coming on board are things like ‘buy online’ and then ‘pick up in store’ or ‘ship from store’ these things still need a store presence,” said Lee Holman, retail analyst.

The National Retail Federation projects people will spend a little more than $1,000 on average during the holiday shopping season, about $70 more than last year.

For some families, shopping on Black Friday is a tradition.

“It’s just, you know, for us to come back together, and, you know do something fun and get out of the house,” another shopper said.

Black Friday has been surpassed in recent years by super Saturday — the Saturday before Christmas — but with more than 116 million shoppers hitting the stores the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday still packs a punch.

“It’s actually my first time, so definitely getting the experience that everyone tends to rave about for today’s deals,” one shopper added.

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