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NC Shoppers Come Out in Force Despite Economy, Attacks

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RALEIGH, NC — The National Retail Federation says the day after Thanksgiving is the fifth to tenth busiest shopping day of the season, but you would never know it was not the busiest day from the crowds that packed parking lots and stores that opened as early as 5 a.m.

Shoppers lined up before sunrise to be among the first to get their hands on bargains on clothes, toys and jewelry, among other items. Some said they would not let security concerns after Sept. 11 keep them from venturing out into crowded stores.

"You can't go on every day worrying about it,'" Angela Black of Cameron said outside of Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville. "I just said my prayers like I do every morning, and you go on. You can't just stop living."

Pam Gunter of Sanford, who arrived at Cross Creek at 6:30 a.m., typically goes out early the day after Thanksgiving every year.

She said clerks and other shoppers seem nicer this year. "Everybody is being really cordial. Nobody is pushing and shoving."

Bob Mantel, manager of J.C. Penney at Cross Creek, said he thought business was about the same as it was on the Friday after Thanksgiving last year, which is pretty good considering worries that the city would be a ghost town should Fort Bragg soldiers be called to duty.

"With 50,000 soldiers here, that's what drives our business," Mantel said. "After Sept. 11, we kind of questioned the economy here. But the troops haven't been deployed from here, and we've been pleasantly surprised with the business."

J.C. Penney stores in Fayetteville and Goldsboro enticed shoppers by giving away Disney snow globes when doors opened at 7 a.m. Mantel said his store gave away 7,000 of them in the first 50 minutes.

People stood in a line stretching through the parking lot at the Target store in Goldsboro and waited to buy $49 stereo systems. The 360 systems were sold in less than 22 minutes, said store manager Debby Reneer.

Michelle King of Raleigh, shopping in suburban Charlotte, said she has seen more bargains this year.

"I know I'm seeing a lot lower prices now on stuff that really wasn't marked down that much until after Christmas last year," King said outside KB Toys at Concord Mills Mall.

In Raleigh, Deborah Ilgandi was among the early arrivals at a Toys 'R Us that opened at 6 a.m. at Crabtree Valley Mall.

Her priorities have changed for Christmas shopping because her husband was laid off from Nortel in July and has not found a new job yet.

"It forced me to go back to work," Ilgandi said. "It really has cut down our shopping a lot. We're actually cutting our shopping in half. What we used to buy for nieces and nephews, we're cutting it in half. My kids are still little, so they don't know any better."

Richard Hudson, manager of Raleigh's Hudson Belk, stood in the midst of several hundred shoppers walking through the aisles in search of bargains.

"I know the economy is troubling right now, but I believe everybody has come out to shop today," Hudson said. "Everything is cooperating with us. I'd love to see it rain because that drives people to shop even more, but everything looks pretty good right now."

Hudson said jewelry, women's shoes, men's accessories and leather jackets were among the big sellers.

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