The midnight store openings may have been marked by brawls and criticism, but one expert surveying the store results called the midnight madness a "stroke of genius" that is "here to stay."
"Early morning openings appear to have been well worth it for both retailers and holiday shoppers, with many Americans believing that deals were too good to pass up," read a statement released by the National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay.
The NRF estimates that holiday sales will increase 2.8 percent this year to $465 billion.
"People have been talking about a 10 percent increase in shopping and I thought that sounded a little aggressive given the trends of late, but the early reads that we're getting is that that midnight opening by most of the large retailers will turn out to be a stroke of genius," said Lori Wachs, a retail analyst and President of Cross Ledge Investments.
The crowds were overwhelming, and Wachs says that the midnight opening is "here to stay."
"They really captured a younger shopper that had not traditionally gone to these door-buster sales, and then later in the day the baby boomers came through. So the early signs are that yes, the crowds will be larger than what I already thought and probably will get close to that 10 percent level," Wachs told "Good Morning America."
The Black Friday numbers always closely watched as a key indicator on the health of the economy, particularly the retail sector. Wachs said this Friday's turnout was a good indicator for the rest of the holiday shopping season.
"It does set a tone for how the rest of the season will play out and how promotional the retailers have to get. So it's not always a direct read, but it's important to start the season off strong. Last year we saw over Black Friday weekend an increase of about 6 percent in shopping, and for the season it came in up 5 percent, so a pretty good indication."
The early coverage of the Black Friday frenzy, which began at many stores at midnight this year, focused on the rash of fist fights, pepper sprays and shootings are crazed shoppers battled for bargains.
Some also criticized the early store openings saying the commericial mania would cut into the spirit of Thanksgiving.
Besides Black Friday, economists keep an eye on Cyber Monday, a day when online shoppers give an indication of how enthusiastic they intend to be.
Small Business Saturday has now joined the line-up of shopping indicators. The second annual event, sponsored by American Express, is meant to draw customers to all of the small shops and restaurants this season instead of the big box stores.
The small businesses taking part in the initiative are being encouraged to use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to get deals out to potential customers. The Small Business Saturday page on Facebook already has over 2 million "likes." Along with information about the day, American Express offers a tool to search for small shops in individual communities and links to their respective pages. The company is offering a deal for consumers -- a $25 statement credit to customers who register an American Express card and spend at least $25 at a small business on Saturday.
The company also offered free marketing tools and opportunities to advertise on Facebook and YourBuzz.
The Obama administration publically supported Small Business Saturday. Karen Mills of the Small Business Administration encouraged consumers to participate in the day, writing, "Let's all do our part to support America's small businesses as they continue to strengthen our economy and create jobs."
ABC News' Maggy Patrick contributed to this report.