The traditional post-Thanksgiving pilgrimage to US shopping malls is under way, with electrical retailers attracting big crowds, reports say.
The mood amongst US consumers is improving recent figures show
Bargain-hunters have been swooping on shops selling cheap electrical goods, as well as clothes and toy stores.
Retailers were hoping to lure customers to the shops early before the first winter heating bills arrive.
The industry has been concerned over the impact of surging fuel prices in the wake of the summer's hurricanes.
Though oil prices have retreated from the highs experienced after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, consumers are likely to have to pay more to heat up their homes this year.
"Consumers are very concerned with value given high gas prices, interest-rate increases and high debt levels," Jackie Fernandez, a partner at Deloitte told Reuters.
However, several major retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores, Sears, Roebuck and Macy's estimated they drew bigger crowds on the official start of the holiday season than a year ago.
According to early reports, photo printers, laptops, digital cameras and flat-panel TVs were the hot sellers at Circuit City, sending its shares up 2.4% on Friday.
Rival electronics retailer Best Buy, meanwhile, also attracted the crowds, leading to a 3.3% rise in its share price.
Mammoth retailer Wal-Mart launched its advertising campaign on 1 November, the earliest in its history. Two million customers flocked to its stores within the first hour of trading on Friday, it reported.
A Wal-Mart spokesperson said discounted laptops and LCD TVs "just flew off the shelves".
"This will go down as one of the earliest and most promotional Black Fridays in history," said Tracy Mullin, president of the National Retail Federation (NRF).
"Many stores opened earlier than ever before and retailers offered unbelievable sales and discounts to get people shopping."
The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday - the day when retailers traditionally turned a profit for the year.
Black Friday used to be regarded as one of the busiest shopping days for the year. But now it has been superseded by the Saturday before Christmas as shoppers look for last-minute bargains.
Recent figures showed US consumer sentiment had recovered from a two-month slump in November, buoyed by easing petrol (gasoline) prices.
The University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment increased to 81.6 this month from 74.2 in October.
Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of US economic activity and is a key indicator of the health of the economy.