The promise of big discounts lured thousands of Canadians to malls and stores on Boxing Day, with shoppers braving massive crowds and long lineups to take part in the annual sales.

In Vancouver, some shoppers descended on Future Shop and Best Buy stores hours before opening to guarantee access to the best deals.

The Evoy family waited outside the Cambie Street Best Buy location for about eight hours prior to the store's 7 a.m. opening to score a digital camera and a laptop.

"We're nuts," Mrs. Evoy joked. "I had to come out and supervise."

The children said they expected to save more than $500 on their purchases, which their mother added the family would "be spending on cold medicine."

Those who showed up later had to contend with huge lines; Best Buy warned customers to expect average lineups of 500 people at each of its 70 stores across Canada.

Boxing Day is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, with retailers typically offering major bargains to lure consumers.

Brent Barr, a retail expert at Ryerson University, predicts consumers will spend more in this year's sales than they did in 2009.

"We've come out of the recession, generally speaking the economic situation in Canada has been stronger," and Canadians are taking on more debt than ever, he said Sunday.

"All those things would say to me that we'll have an increase in spending this year," both for Christmas and Boxing Day, he said.

Many retailers launched their Boxing Day sales early online, leading some experts to predict less traffic in stores.

But Barr said most shoppers get a rush out of the chaos during Boxing Day sales.

Those taking advantage of the online deals are probably put off by the crowded malls, and wouldn't have ventured there anyway, he added.

In downtown Montreal, more than a hundred people were waiting outside Future Shop store an hour before it opened, even though the same discounts have been available online since Dec. 24.

"It's a social event and a great day for shopping," said Thierry Lopez of Future Shop.

"There are some people who really want to come in the store, and touch the products and come with the family, and we've got some other people who prefer to stay at home, and shop online."

Ali Ismael, 19, was the first in line outside the store. Ismael, who is visiting from Pakistan for the holidays, arrived at 7:30 a.m., nearly five hours before the electronics store was scheduled to open.

He said the long wait in the cold was worth it to get a camera that's $300 off.

"I'd buy it online, but I'm not here for long," he said.

"I'm leaving tonight, so I thought it would be better to wait and go back home happy."

With files from The Canadian Press