Candace Corlett, a retail consultant for WSL Strategic Retails, says she noticed retailers paying closer attention to customer service on Black Friday. At Best Buy, for instance, she says the sales staff did a good job of helping customers with questions about the merchandise.
"The lines were more orderly, and retailers paid more attention to customers service instead of just making a sale," Corlett says.
But Black Friday is still foremost about making a sale. Most of the deals are considered planned promotions, which retailers have anticipated months in advance. Chen notes that the unplanned promotions -- which are the ones that can hurt margins -- typically start in December, when retailers worry whether they'll be able to unload their inventories.
The National Retail Federation's Davis says the shoppers who flocked to stores Friday morning may be in search of a bargain because of larger economic concerns that might stifle their spending later in the season.
"If the economy was perfect, they wouldn't stand in line at 5 a.m.," she says.