Most lines of shoppers were thin in the Salt Lake Valley through the afternoon and early evening Thursday as people waited for door busters and other bargains to be rolled out anywhere from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Some consumers and employees pushed back against the decision by Walmart and Target to open on Thanksgiving. The backlash may have had something to do with the smaller crowds, at least early on.
Daniel Moreno got in line near the main entrance at Target's Salt Lake City location on 300 West at 7:30 a.m. Thursday. It would be four more hours until another person showed up. By late afternoon, six people were in line.
"The lines were longer at this time last year," Moreno said, "and the store opened later."
Other Utah shoppers said they were bummed out by the so-called Christmas creep, punctuated by the fact many more retail employees had to work on Thanksgiving.
Some said that the Black Friday bleed into Thursday crossed a line, that merchants should not intrude like this. Yet amid these protests, people still talked about feeling powerless beneath the moment as if they had no choice but to shop.
"We're still out here," said Kelly Jackson, a paralegal who was standing inside a Best Buy store in the Pittsburgh suburbs, a 32-inch television ($189) in her cart. It was a consolation prize because despite four hours in line, she missed the cheaper 40-inchers ($179) that she had heard about while listening to Internet radio.
It all meant that shoppers who wanted to fall into a turkey-induced slumber could still head out to stores early on Black Friday. Others could head straight from the dinner table to stores on Turkey Day. And stores were able to attract both groups by offering door buster sales from the flat-screen TVs to $10 jeans at different times of the day. Early indicators from Black Friday sales and foot traffic were giving retailers some hope for the holiday season.
Retailers such as Macy's, Best Buy Co. and Toys R Us said they were seeing people buying beyond what's on sale, including purchases of full-priced cosmetics.
Black Friday signals the traditional start of retailers' biggest selling period and when they historically begin to turn profitable, so it's an important day. But there are plenty of holiday-shopping days to go. Eight of the top 10 days of the season are in December, with the Saturday before Christmas the No. 2 traffic and sales day.
It won't be clear for a few days how many shoppers took advantage of the Thanksgiving hours. But about 17 percent of people surveyed said earlier this month they planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving. Thirty-three percent intended to shop on Black Friday, down 1 percentage point from last year.