-- Eoin O'Carroll
Updated 9:27 am
Big box retailers made headlines this year by kicking off Black Friday earlier than ever. Kmart, Walmart, Toys R Us, Sears opened their doors at 8pm on Thanksgiving in many states, and Target opened at 9pm.
The early openings drew criticism from those who argued that shoppers and retail workers should be spending Thanksgiving at home with their families, but it looks as though the strategy is paying off for big retailers, at least so far.
Many news outlets report that shoppers arrived in full force last night to kick off the start of the holiday shopping season.
CNN Money quotes Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch: "Our customers love the earlier opening," said Storch. "The atmosphere is celebratory and the crowds have been happy and excited to start their holiday shopping."
The rush to purchase toys and electronics, however, might better be characterized as obligation, not love. CNN quotes New Yorker Shay Brown, who was visiting relatives in Pittsburgh and decided to hit Walmart.
"We could have been sitting around enjoying each others' company, but instead we had to rush here to get the deals," said Brown, who CNN notes was shopping for DVDs.
[Update 9:40 am] A press release from Walmart reports that the retailer experienced the best Black Friday ever. Starting at 8 p.m., Walmart sold more than 1.8 million towels, 1.3 million televisions, 1.3 million dolls, and 250,000 bicycles.
Of course, we won't know for a few days if the Thanksgiving openings increased demand, or simply shifted sales to slightly earlier in the season. And even if retailers do see an improved bottom line this year, their success may have little to do with when they opened: According to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, the share of American households who believe that the economy is improving is now at 37 percent, the highest since March 2002.