Toys R Us CEO Dave Brandon said the company "got off to a good start last night," and its Times Square flagship had "lines of people down the street when we opened the doors at 5 o'clock."
Target on Friday morning said traffic in its stores was "solid" on Thanksgiving, with millions of shoppers filtering into its stores throughout the evening. Online, it achieved its biggest day ever for digital sales.
Wal-Mart said "tens of millions of customers" visited its digital and physical stores, adding that more than 25 million shoppers accessed its store maps and digital ads in preparation for the event.
Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., said customers "really appreciated" the fact that it simplified its deals this year, launching all of its doorbusters at 6 p.m. instead of staggering them across the evening.
After the initial flood of traffic, Bratspies said, stores had a "steady" flow of traffic overnight, and is expecting another big day.
"In general, the biggest things obviously go relatively quickly," Bratspies said, listing a 32-inch Roku TV, gaming systems, toys and sheets as some of its best-sellers.
And Macy's estimates at least 15,000 people were waiting outside its flagship Herald Square store ahead of its 6 p.m. Thanksgiving opening, roughly in line with last year.
"Last night was clearly the kickoff to Thanksgiving shopping and we saw it, not just with the lines, but with purchasing," CEO Terry Lundgren said. "We were very encouraged that people finally not only came out, but came out and bought."
Moody's analyst Charlie O'Shea said he saw big crowds at the New Jersey Best Buy and Target stores he visited. As of 10 a.m. Thursday, there were already 20 chairs outside of Best Buy, O'Shea said; once the deals kicked off, people were snatching up multiple TVs.
O'Shea even saw one shopper, who had already picked up three flatscreen TVs, loading a fourth onto a flatbed.
Moody's analyst Scott Tuhy said one of the busiest parts of the J.C. Penney and Macy's stores he visited were the buy online, pick up in-store counter. That's a positive for retailers, since it saves them on shipping costs and encourages shoppers to pick up additional purchases while they're in store.
But while the shopping extravaganza appeared to get off to what O'Shea called a "reasonable" start, it remains to be seen if an uptick in sales over the four-day Black Friday shopping period will be enough to boost retailers out of their lull.
"It's a long season," he said. "There's a lot of innings left to play in this game."