Overall, Walmart said this year marked its "best ever Black Friday events," and its stores welcomed a larger crowd of shoppers than last year. During its initial four opening hours on Thanksgiving, the retailer processed nearly 10 million register transactions, and almost 5,000 items per second.
The hottest deals: Deals on home furnishings and appliances were particularly popular this year, in addition to sweaters, boots and electronics.
At Macy's, Black & Decker waffle makers were among the items to sell out early, said Nick Nicolosi, the general manager at North Point Mall in Alpharetta, Ga. Shoppers also rushed to buy Keurig coffee makers and travel luggage.
At Target, consumers were going after doorbuster deals on electronics, particularly TVs, said spokesman Joshua Thomas. Home goods, including blankets and bed sheets, were also popular.
The hottest item at Best Buy was a 40-inch Toshiba LCD on sale for $179.99, down almost 60% from its original price. Tablets and smartphones were also big sellers, said Best Buy spokesman Jeff Haydock.
Limited Brands' Victoria's Secret also invited large crowds. At North Grand Mall in Ames, Iowa, hoodies and yoga pants sold out within five minutes, according to a spokeswoman, and in Lufkin, Texas, the checkout lines stretched to the door even at 2 a.m., two hours after the opening.
The manager at the Victoria's Secret store in Town East Mall in Mesquite, Texas, said sales at the location have far surpassed last year.
Disney Stores, most of which opened at midnight, were also luring large crowds. Paul Gainer, executive vice president of Global Disney Store, said lines started forming at 11:30 p.m. ET, and overall traffic improved from last year.
Disney has been offering the exact same deals to online shoppers throughout the week. Gainer said Disneystore.com is seeing double-digit gains in traffic, and expects that to continue as the online store maintains its "Magic Friday" prices throughout the day and gears up for Cyber Monday.
Shoppers also hit other online stores hard on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Online shopping sales on Thanksgiving Day were up more than 17% from 2011, according to IBM, and Black Friday online sales rose 20% compared to last year. Consumers shopping from a mobile device reached almost 15%.
-- CNNMoney's Emily Jane Fox, Annalyn Kurtz, Les Christie and James O'Toole contributed to this article.