Shoppers seek limited Black Friday deals

Shoppers flooded the Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh. The Macy's store there opened at 4 a.m. and managers said traffic has remained steady since then.

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MEBANE, N.C. — Black Friday hoppers searched for deals at local malls and stores on Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Retailers opened early to attract bargain seekers with limited-quantity discounts. The big sale was the lure, but most shoppers were loading their carts with everything from big-screen TVs to stocking stuffers.

"They just keep coming in the door," said Lori Holly, store manager at the Macy's at Crabtree Valley Mall.  

Holly said ladies shoes were a big hit at the store this year. 

"With the economy this year, people are really choosing their gifts thoughtfully. They want something that will give them good value," she said. 

While big box stores and malls were crowded, Elizabeth Mills, owner of Gingham and Posh, had few customers at her basket store in Oak Park Shopping Center on Raleigh's Hollyridge Drive.

"It's slow," she said. "The mailman has been in."

Small business owners can lose out to the Black Friday blitz of advertising and discounting from the chains.

"I wish I could get down there and somehow usher the people this way," Mills said.

Gov. Bev Perdue shares that sentiment. She has dubbed Saturday "Small Business Saturday," noting that small businesses provide nearly half of private sector jobs.

American Express first designated the day, but North Carolina has jumped on the bandwagon in hopes of encouraging folks to support those mom-and-pop shops.

New Mebane outlet mall draws crowds

Traffic was backed up for more than a mile on Interstate 40/85 in Alamance County just before 2 a.m., as holiday shoppers headed to the Tanger Outlet mall in Mebane.

Jan Presnell said her friend was able to find a $260 coat on sale for $40 at the mall. 

“I found some great deals. I won’t buy it if it’s not a deal,” shopper Erica Blackwell said.

Jared Lambert said his family dragged him to the mall, but he was having fun, despite the crowds.

“It was a mad house. It was crazy. There were tons of people, long lines. It was insane,” he said.

Barbara Blackwell was also in Mebane because of family.

“I don’t do Black Friday because I don’t like the crowds, but my lovely sister-in-law begged me and made me feel guilty, if I didn’t come with her,” she said.

Early birds seek bargains

Some people started lining up early for Black Friday deals.

James Blair and his sons were the first in line outside the Best Buy store in Garner. They got there at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and had Thanksgiving dinner off the hood of a car.

The line had grown to more than 10 people by Thursday afternoon. Best Buy employees planned to hand out tickets to people in line two hours before the 5 a.m. opening on Friday.

Blair – who's shopped Black Friday sales for 16 years – said it was important to be first.

"You can be five people in back, and they've already sold out before the store opens," he said. "You can stand in line for 20 hours and still not get what you want."

Shoppers said they were hoping to score one of the $189 laptops advertised by Best Buy. The advertisement said the store might have only three laptops for sale at that price.

Many stores pushed more exclusive deals online on Thursday in a bid to rope in shoppers before Black Friday. It apparently worked. According to IBM's Coremetrics, online sales soared 33 percent on the holiday compared with Thanksgiving 2009.

Consumers began shopping earlier in the day on Thursday compared with a year earlier. And the average order was $182.74, up from $159.81 on last year's Thanksgiving Day.

The Kohl's department store chain, which opened at 3 a.m. Friday, one hour earlier than a year ago, is promoting diamond bracelets and diamonds heart pendants for $99 each, down from $500 or $575. The store is also offering 50 percent off all toys.

Some stores started offering Black Friday deals a day early.

A few stores at the Carolina Premium Outlets in Smithfield opened as early as 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The mall normally opens at midnight on Black Friday. 

The Sears store in Cary Towne Center was open on Thanksgiving, although the mall itself was closed.

Thanksgiving weekend is huge for retailers. In recent years, so-called Black Friday has been the busiest shopping day of the year, according to data from research firm ShopperTrak. But it doesn't necessarily provide a complete forecast of holiday sales. In fact, shoppers seem to be procrastinating more every year, so the fate of the holiday season is increasingly down to the last few days before Christmas.

Retailers do study buying patterns for the weekend to discern shoppers' mindset. This year, that means taking the measure on their willingness to spend just a little bit more.

Last year, the Thanksgiving shopping weekend accounted for 12.3 percent of overall holiday revenue, according to ShopperTrak. Black Friday made up about half of that.

Mall hours on Black Friday

Carolina Premium Outlets: midnight Thursday–10 p.m. Friday

Cary Towne Center: 6 a.m.–10 p.m.

Crabtree Valley Mall: 7 a.m.–10 p.m.

Cross Creek Mall: 6 a.m.–10 p.m.

The Streets at Southpoint: 6 a.m.–10 p.m.

Tanger Outlet Mall: midnight Thursday–10 p.m. Friday

Triangle Town Center: 6 a.m.–10 p.m.

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Erin Hartness, Reporter
Beau Minnick, Reporter
Kathy Hanrahan, Web Editor

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