Strategic shoppers, promotions and customer service. It's all in a Black Friday's work.
But was it worth it? Some retailers and shoppers say yes.
For three days starting on Black Friday, 152 million people are expected to shop, up about 10 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
At the Old Navy at Town Square, store manager Yelena Hamai said her busiest hours were from midnight Thursday to 3 a.m. Friday . She attributes her big rush -- she couldn't disclose specific numbers -- to a free-camera-with-purchase promotion, limited to supply.
Shoppers came prepared this year, she said. Most had a list and rarely deviated.
"They really know what's the value in each store," Hamai said.
This holiday season, 46.7 percent of time-strapped shoppers will seek out retailers' holiday deals on the Internet, up from 43.9 percent last year, according to the federation.
Hamai said most of the shoppers she encountered Friday were well-mannered, patient and understanding when the inevitable hiccups happened for a retail store's staff newly hired for the holiday season.
Christina Leventis, assistant store manager at Brighton Collectibles at Town Square, said business was steady. She estimated that she had seen about 60 customers by noon, and half made a purchase.
"I think this is going to be a good season for retail," Leventis said.
Because its product line features primarily purses and jewelry, Brighton will see the bulk of its sales closer to Christmas and Hanukkah.
"I think it's just going to get busier and busier," Leventis said. "It definitely builds."
RESTAURANT PATRONS INCREASE
Across from Brighton at Brio Tuscan Grille, the hungry shoppers were streaming in.
Location is everything in determining how busy a restaurant will be on Black Friday, said Kenna Warner, district partner of Brio, who oversees six locations, including two in Las Vegas.
"Here, we're in the mall so we see an increase in traffic early in the day," Warner said.
The Town Square location had served more than 300 dishes by noon. On a typical day, it's more like 40 or 50.
"The weather, too, is working in our favor," Warner said of her positive numbers.
The Brio Tuscan Grille at Tivoli Village offered a brunch and hot cocoa specials to help draw in early-morning customers. By noon it had served 200 dishes.
Popular food items Friday were things easily eaten in a hurry.
"This is the No. 1 pizza delivery day," Warner said.
Town Square's retailers staggered opening times, which helped keep shoppers on the property, General Manager Mike Wethington said.
"We just continue to pick up throughout the day," he said. "It looks as busy or busier today than last year, and people are buying."
Around 11 a.m., a line about 200 people long swarmed clothing store Express, which had a promotion ending at noon. H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch, too, had lines outside the door.
"People are definitely out shopping," Wethington said. "It just tells you people feel more stable about the market."
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs, 34 percent of consumers said they planned to shop on Black Friday. That is up slightly over last year, when 31 percent of consumers indicated they planned to shop, and significantly up from 2009's 26 percent.
"In addition to buying gifts, consumers overwhelmingly indicated that they would be looking for bargains on Black Friday for themselves as well," said Michael Niemira, chief economist and director of research for the shopping center council.
BARGAINS WITHOUT THE CROWDS
Four Walmart shoppers, at least, seemed to be buying strictly for others.
Gabriela De La Cruz and her three sisters, Maria, Rosely and Claudia, left Walmart at the Las Vegas Beltway and Rainbow Boulevard around 9:30 a.m. pushing three carts piled high with gifts, including a 40-inch LCD high-definition TV, toys and board games.
The sisters said they usually shop together on Black Friday but skipped last year and hadn't planned to this year, but they decided to let loose at the last moment Friday morning.
"We came to Walmart because they have everything," De La Cruz said. "I think I did really well."
They said toys -- especially Build-A-Bear dolls for $10 -- were the best deal of the day. De La Cruz said some things not displayed in the center aisle seemed to be priced a little higher than normal, but they focused on the deals and came away happy.
"We were surprised it wasn't crowded at all," De La Cruz said. "I think it's because everyone was here at midnight."
Around 2 p.m. Friday, the Meadows mall parking lot was nearly at capacity, though away from the malls and at stores that don't sell in big boxes the day seemed a bit slow.
For example, an associate at Red Rock Jewelers said the store's business won't pick up until later in the holiday season.
David Bassuk, managing director of retail at AlixPartners, a consultancy, said retailers will have to work hard and offer more discounts to keep customers coming back.
"Consumers have made it clear that they're only going to spend so much money, and the people who are going to get them to open their wallet first are going to win," he said. "This is a consumer who is smart and well-informed but also cash-strapped and cautious."
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@lvbusiness press.com or 702-380-4588.