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Deck the malls: Black Friday shoppers flock to stores

TMCNet:  Deck the malls: Black Friday shoppers flock to stores

[November 23, 2012]

Deck the malls: Black Friday shoppers flock to stores

Nov 23, 2012 (The Capital - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- DeeDee Norris normally does her holiday shopping on Black Friday, but this year she came out looking to buy for herself.

The Washington, D.C., resident has a baby due in May and decided to spend this morning shopping for maternity clothes. She started her day at Kohl's in Annapolis.

"This year I'm spending on myself," Norris said. "I got here at 8:30 and I'll be out in 20 minutes." This was the second year that Kohl's opened at midnight to Black Friday customers. The retailer's weekend plans included free WiFi and discounts through Cyber Monday.

Elsewhere, Black Friday started on Thanksgiving Day. Stores like Sears, Kmart, Walmart and Toys R Us all opened Thursday night to get a jump on what has been marketed as the biggest shopping day of the year.

But experts said online sales will be the real winner this year.

At BlackFriday.com, customers voiced their disapproval of the earlier openings. Many said they will shop online in protest. Many online sales started Wednesday.

"They have really kind of jammed Thanksgiving dinner and Black Friday together," said Rob Woods, a spokesman for the website. "We're recommending (customers) go online and get everything they can. Then, out of the stuff you can't get -- see if you want to line up on Thanksgiving evening or not." But the earlier openings don't bother Kimberly Grandy, who hit stores at 4 a.m. today, just as she does every year. The Pasadena resident planned to visit Sears, Target, Walmart and Marley Station mall. She usually gets 75 percent of her Christmas shopping done by braving Black Friday crowds.

"You have to bundle up because it's quite chilly, but I love it," Grandy said. "I do like the crowds and everything. The hustle and bustle -- I love it. Isn't that crazy " Last year, Black Friday sales resulted in $11.4 billion in retail purchases, an increase of nearly 7 percent from that day in 2010. Retail foot traffic also increased 5 percent, according to ShopperTrak. Also that year, comScore reported online sales increased 26 percent to $816 million.

Locally, Westfield Annapolis mall opened at 5 a.m. today, although some stores opened at midnight. Marley Station and Arundel Mills malls opened at midnight.

Arundel Mills also launched its Shop Swap promotion, which allows shoppers to exchange their receipts to play the slot machines at the nearby Maryland Live! casino.

Shoppers who have minimum purchases of $100 at the mall can swap that same-day receipt for Free Slot Play options ranging $10 to $50. The promotion will be good through Dec. 24.

The Hanover mall is the state's largest shopping and entertainment destination. It began opening at midnight four years ago in response to consumers who have called for earlier Black Friday deals.

"For a large number of folks, this has become their annual outing. It's their tradition," said Gene Condon, the mall's general manager.

The Marley Station mall also opened at midnight and offered gift cards to the first 150 shoppers. Officials there expect between 30,000 and 50,000 shoppers before closing time tonight at 10.

Select stores opened at midnight at the Westfield Annapolis mall as well. Officials there declined to comment on the expected number of shoppers.

Shoppers today said they've never seen such big lines at Arundel Mills. Some waited for nearly an hour to reach a cash register at the mall's Old Navy store. The check-out line circled through the store, past displays of $15 jeans that offered a fit based on personality -- for instance, a slim cut for the diva.

"It's just crazy in here," said Vicky Iorio of Pasadena, a first-time Black Friday shopper.

She was encouraged by her daughter to shop at midnight. Next year, she plans to sleep instead.

Small business There are also other opportunities for shopping today and Saturday, through the Annapolis and Eastport business associations. The Annapolis organization is celebrating Small Business Saturday with nearly two dozen downtown shops and restaurants offering free gifts and other special offers.

In Eastport, today will be the third year of the Fourth Street Art Stroll & Pub Walk. Today at 6 p.m., three galleries, including the Lisa Masson Studio Gallery, will open with promotions and refreshments.

"It's just getting the jump on the holidays, just to get people out," Lisa Masson said. "And it's to let them know we're here on Fourth Street. I think people forget about us, they're so used to going to Main Street and downtown." ___ (c)2012 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.) Visit The Capital (Annapolis, Md.) at www.hometownannapolis.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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