Last year I took notes about how many people were in line at certain stores in the chance that it would be helpful to someone out there.
With the exception of Kohl's all the stores mentioned are in Montebello, CA.
BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING EXPERIENCE 2011
Tuesday before Thanksgiving: people line up at Best Buy with tents.
6pm: Toys R Us 25 people in line. At Sears there is 1 person in line.
8pm: Toys R Us ~200 people in line. Sears has 5 people in line. I drive by Best Buy and see a long line and the several cars pulling into the parking lot.
9pm: Toys R Us opens. A limited number of people are allowed in a time, see note below. At Sears 6 people are in line.
10pm: Sears 10 people in line. Line to enter Toys R Us continues.
11pm: Shops at Montebello Mall open its doors. Line to enter Toys R Us continues. At Best Buy the entire parking lot for the shopping center is full. Shoppers are parking in the street and searching for the end of the line to enter.
Midnight: The stores at the Shops at Montebello Mall open, thousands of people shop. Line to enter Toys R Us continues.
3:00: Line to enter Toys R Us is gone, customers can now walk in without waiting. I heard from others in line that there were what seemed like thousands of people waiting in line at Best Buy.
3:45: Sears opens 15 minutes early, 200+ are in line to enter, the store allows a limited number of customers in at a time.
5am: The Shops at Montebello Mall is nearly cleared out of shoppers, many stores stand empty with sales associates waiting in doorways armed with flyers about their current promotions.
6am: At Kohls in Alhambra, CA store has been open a few hours and I am able to leisurely browse the sales floor. The items I want are available and the line to pay takes 5 minutes.
7am: CVS opens. There are only two customers shopping the Black Friday sales.
Toys R Us: Customers and allowed to enter at 9pm and as we enter a sales associate asks, “Who is here for the TV? Who is here for the Xbox?” Customers who reply, “Me!” are given a ticket to purchase the item and can go directly to the registers. Only a few hundred people are allowed to enter the store. When the store reaches capacity the line to enter is stopped and customers are allowed to enter only as customers exit. Inside some customers rush over to the crowded electronic section while others leisurely browse the aisles. The line to pay is clearly defined by tape marked on the floor. One sales associate has the job of standing at the end of the line holding balloons so customers can see where to line up. I was about #200 in line, I know exactly what I want, I'm one of the first ones at the main registers to pay and I'm out of the store by 9:15.
Shops at Montebello Mall: My sister went to the mall just after midnight. She said Macy's was packed with people, the shoe department was a nightmare, as was the kid's toy area upstairs. The big advertised specials were easily found in the center aisles. The rest of the mall was kind of empty, some stores just had regular sales, but nothing special. She didn't have any trouble finding a parking spot. In 2010 the Disney Store had a line to enter and the line to check out at the Children's Place was 45 minutes long.
Benefit from my experience and read my TOP 10 BLACK FRIDAY TIPS here.