The aggressive tactics -- bigger discounts and expanded hours like midnight openings apparently worked. Based on early reports, Macy's Inc., Toys "R" Us, K-B Toys Inc. and others that pushed big price cuts, reported bigger crowds for the early morning bargains than a year ago. Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said they were also pleased with the shopper turnout.
Electronic gadgets, particularly the hard-to-find Nintendo Wii, topped shoppers' wish lists, though frustrations were high among consumers who couldn't get their hands on the limited bargains.
With the economy relying heavily on the consumer, however, it's crucial that the Black Friday euphoria lasts throughout the season, expected to be the weakest in five years.
"I'm really looking for the bargains this year because I'm losing my job; they're moving our plant to Mexico after the first of the year, so I have to be careful," said Tina Dillow of New Richmond, Ohio, who camped out at a Best Buy store near Cincinnati at 3 a.m. because of a great deal on a laptop.
Louise Jackson of Chesapeake, Va., arrived at the MacArthur Center, a mall in downtown Norfolk, Va., at 7:30 a.m., a half hour before it opened.
"We're just browsing, to see what's out here, to see if there's anything that would be worth it," she said. By 9:30 a.m., she hadn't bought anything, although she did place a pair of pants for herself on hold at Nordstrom. Her only shopping strategy was to keep an eye out for good deals.
"The tougher economic conditions are driving more shoppers to take advantage of early bird specials," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group.
For customer Jennifer Angelet and her shopping companions, this Black Friday was also about the deal, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.
We know all the sales so we know if we're getting good prices or not," said Angelet.
Marshal Cohen, chief analyst at NPD Group Inc. agreed, but he noted shoppers were buying selectively. Overall, the biggest draws were consumer electronics, including flat-screen TVs, digital cameras, digital frames, and laptops. In toys, which have been battered by recalls of a slew of lead tainted Chinese toys, there were plenty of hits, including video games such as Activision Inc.'s "Guitar Hero III," toys related to Walt Disney Co.'s "Hannah Montana" and Smart Cycle from Mattel Inc.'s Fisher-Price, toy executives said.
Janet Hoffman, managing partner of the North American retail division of the consulting firm Accenture, believes that some parents, concerned about toy safety, may shift their purchases away from toys to video games and children's clothing. She added that sales of children's clothing fared unusually well Friday.