By the opening bell Friday, Nov. 24, Black Friday was already indicating a strong start for the holiday shopping season. 

Initial statistics illustrated a positive retail environment for traditional big box players, albeit with continued market share grab at the hands of e-commerce contenders.

As the holiday season readied for takeoff, consumer spending had increased 16.8% year-over-year by the evening of Thanksgiving, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracked 80% of online transactions at the top 100 U.S. retailers. Thanksgiving Day saw $360 million in online sales as of 10 a.m. ET, up 17.6% from the prior year. The average order value was slightly higher for this year's pre-Thanksgiving Day at $137.

Analysts and investors were betting on a strong retail season for both bricks-and-mortar and online commerce as consumer sentiment and employment suggested a higher level of discretionary income for U.S. shoppers. At the same time, the stock market has reached numerous new highs and the economy is growing at a steady pace.

The 31-day shopping season between Black Friday and Christmas is longer than usual, one day short of a record. That offers retailers an extended chance to capitalize on the busiest time of the year.

With that, retail stocks were gaining early Friday, as the S&P Retail ETF (XRT) - Get Report  rose 0.73%. Here's a look at some of the biggest players this Black Friday.

  • Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT) - Get Report  was once again flexing its muscles this Black Friday. The heavyweight big box retailer was among the strongest contenders early Friday, according to TheStreet's Brian Sozzi. Shares of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based mega-chain gained 0.45% Friday.  "Once again, we've given our customers an amazing assortment of deals at the best prices of the night, and with more availability than any other retailer," Walmart chief merchandising officer Steve Bratspies said late Thursday, Nov. 23. "We delivered on that promise to the millions of customers who shopped our stores and online by selling tens of millions of televisions, video game consoles, movies and toys and turkeys! We are committed to continuing to help customers save time and money this season in the final days and weeks leading up to Christmas. Now get excited about Cyber Monday!"
  • Target Corp. (TGT) - Get Report stores around the New York area weren't terribly crowded after initial lines petered out. The company has been serving up Black Friday deals for nearly three weeks, offering preview sales and early access to loyal Red Card holders. Shares fell 1.3% Friday even as analysts dubbed it an early winner. Target's Black Friday Preview Sale Begins Monday, 18 Days Before Thanksgiving
  • Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) - Get Report remains the king of e-commerce. Shares gained 1.8% early Friday. More good news for Amazon -- as of 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, a record 46% of all traffic to retail sites was made on smartphones. That's a 17% increase from Thanksgiving last year, meaning online traffic remains on the rise.
  • Best Buy Co. (BBY) - Get Report was on track to post a winning day, if social media have any say. Users on Twitter and Instagram posted photos of long lines through the parking lot at Best Buy locations throughout the U.S. Shares rose 0.6% Friday. Lines in Texas: 800+ Shoppers lined up outside of Best Buy in Irving. #BlackFriday pic.twitter.com/9FkEAupCkk — Omair Siddiqi (@omair_siddiqi) November 23, 2017
  • Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) looked like a ghost town, according to TheStreet's Sozzi. The retailer has struggled this year, with shares lower nearly 60% year-to-date. Early Friday, though, Sears shares gained 3.68%. Sears on #BlackFriday -- why bother? https://t.co/AIby2Ey1N9 — Brian Sozzi (@BrianSozzi) November 24, 2017
  • JC Penney Co.   (JCP) - Get Report  capitalized on the popularity of small appliances this holiday season. The old-school anchor could outpace its competition this year. Shares jumped 1.85%.

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