Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) had more than 10 million transactions during the four hours it was open on Thanksgiving, compared to the “nearly 10 million” it reported last year, in line with the modest same-store sales growth that analysts have been predicting. Last year the holiday season started strong on Black Friday, had weak sales immediately after, and then picked up again closer to Christmas, and analysts expect to see a similar pattern this year.

Wal-Mart

“On a net basis, assuming sales have been pulled forward two hours, and assuming average ticket is similar, it would seem safe to say Black Friday sales are up slightly this year vs. our flat Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) U.S. same-store sales estimate for all of 4Q13 and guidance of the same,” wrote MKM Partners managing director Patrick McKeever, who rates Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) as Neutral.

Most retailers were Black Friday winners

Target issued its first ever Black Friday report, possibly to brag that Thanksgiving was among the best single days on record for both traffic and sales, even though it was also only open for four hours. McKeever expects to see flat same-store sales for Target just like with Walmart, but he rates the company a Buy because he thinks there is a better upside risk. He also rates Kohl’s as a Buy, even though spot checks of stores gave mixed results, with some noticeably busier and some much less crowded than last year. Kohl’s Corporation (NYSE:KSS) hasn’t released an official statement so it’s hard to estimate how good their Black Friday sales were nationwide.

Fred’s not enjoying Thanksgiving competition

The big loser in the advent of Gray Thursday is probably Fred’s, which has been opening on Thanksgiving for years now. In the past they had the market nearly to themselves for one day, but as more companies open (and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) pushed opening times back from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m.), they have as much competition as the rest of the year. McKeever is Neutral on Fred’s, but warns investors to keep an eye on the company.

While brick and mortar stores have opened early the Friday after Thanksgiving for years, competition from online retailers who are always open (and with less controversy) has pushed more of them to open Thursday night to keep up.