Toys R Us opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, an hour earlier than last year.
Macy's, which opened at midnight on Thanksgiving, had 12,000 customers wrapped around its store in New York's Herald Square.
The earlier start also meant the violence associated with shoppers fighting for bargains likewise began earlier. On Thanksgiving night, a couple was struck by an SUV while walking into a Wal-Mart in Washington state, and in Texas, shoppers scattered when a man who got punched during a fight at a Sears store pulled a gun. Two people also were shot and wounded in Tallahassee, Fla., on Friday in a disagreement that police believe was over a parking spot outside a Wal-Mart.
Julie Hansen, a spokeswoman at Minneapolis' Mall of America, the nation's largest shopping center, reported that 30,000 shoppers showed up for the mall's midnight opening, up from 20,000 last year. "This was additional dollars," Hansen said. This year, 200 of the 520 mall tenants opened at midnight following Thanksgiving. That's double from a year ago.
To be sure, it's not clear whether the longer hours will turn into extra dollars for retailers, or whether sales will simply be spread out over two days.
The Thanksgiving openings appeared to create two waves of shoppers — the late-nights and the early birds.
Sam Chandler and his wife, Lori, were among the night owls. They started shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving. By the time they reached the Wal-Mart in Greenville, S.C., early Friday, they had already hit several stores, including Target and Best Buy.
"We've learned over the years, you have to stand in line early and pray," Sam said.
Stu and April Schatz of Rockland County, N.Y., went to the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, N.J., which didn't open until 7 a.m. on Black Friday, because they didn't want to deal with the crowds that show up late on Thanksgiving night.
"It's so much more civilized going in the morning," said April Schatz, a teacher. "We wanted to enjoy our evening."
Anne D'Innocenzio reported from New York. Contributing to this report were Mae Anderson in New York, Candice Choi in Paramus, N.J., and Mitch Weiss in Greenville, S.C.