More than 1,500 shoppers lined up outside of the Mall of America's north entrance near Minneapolis, ahead of its 5 a.m. opening on Black Friday.
It was the first time in five years that the megamall kicked off the annual sales event the day after Thanksgiving, and the crowds — spread out across the property's 16 entrances — seemed bigger than last year, when it opened on the holiday, Dan Jasper, a spokesman for the mall, told CNBC.
With all but three of the property's more than 520 stores opening at the same time, it drew a larger wave of initial traffic thousands of people deep, as opposed to last year's scattered visits that reflected gradual store openings.
The property also brought back doorbuster giveaways — something it hadn't done in "quite a while" — handing out the first of what will be 10,000 scratch offs this weekend. Prizes include vacations, handbags and designer scarves.
"The energy has been extremely high," Jasper said. "It's a completely different vibe than the past few years."
One hour later, some 700 people were waiting outside of CBL & Associates' Fayette Mall, in Lexington, Kentucky, for its 6 a.m. opening. It was one of more than 70 CBL shopping centers that stayed closed on Thanksgiving Day — a change from last year — and it greeted larger, more excited crowds.
Like the Mall of America, CBL handed out gift cards and goody bags — anywhere from 250 to 1,000, depending on the location — at its malls. At some of its properties, the giveaways disappeared within five minutes, CEO Stephen Lebovitz told CNBC.
"People were lining up at 3 a.m. at some places," he said. "The traffic is definitely more than it was last year so far this morning."