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Shoppers Pack Area Malls in Search of the Christmas Bargain

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SMITHFIELD — Thousands of people are soaking their feet after a long day of shopping. Traditional malls were packed with sales hounds, and stores that have year-round discounts were also flooded.

Analysts expect a five percent increase in Christmas spending nationwide, and stores hope that it does not slow down.

If you felt guilty Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, it is okay to begin now. Perfect weather, low interest rates and a stable stock market are helping many take home goodies by the cart-load.

"My husband told my sister-in-law to put me on a leash," said shopper Robin Poynter. "She's put me on a leash all right."

For shopping enthusiasts, this is heaven on earth. The outlet center in Smithfield was so busy that shoppers were parking by the street just to get in. The entire lot was full for most of the day.

At Parkwood Mall in Wilson, shoppers were in place early to take home the usual necessities that no child or parent can live without on Christmas morning.

"Probably the hottest items that are going today are theBeanie Babies," said merchant Beth Gudac.

You do not have to consider yourself a professional shopper to enjoy days like this, but it helps. The Friday after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days nationwide for merchants.

For those not savvy enough for the gift buying bonanza, the sidelines were a peaceful sanctuary.

"We're just hanging around out here, eating popcorn, watching people," said Tony Vaughn, one shopper's husband.

Many stores have extended hours for the holiday season, so you might be able to go to your favorite stores a little later than normal. Make sure you call ahead to find out.