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6:00 Shopping Drives Thousands to Local Malls

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Sales drew out the early morning bargain hunter and crowded mall parking lots.
RALEIGH — With a sense of humor and a brave exterior, thousands coped with the firstbig day of the holiday shopping season. Hudson Belk at Crabtree ValleyMall opened its doors at 6:00 a.m., while the rest of the mall opened forbusiness two hours later. It's exactly what retailers want to see,shoppers filing in by droves, ready, willing and able to spend money.

Welcome to the day after Thanksgiving at the mall. It was a packed house,as usual, this morning as thousands of shoppers got up early ready tospend and to save. Some shoppers took a little coaxing.

Mary Hinrichs confesses her children made her come out. They demanded aday of shopping, and that was it.

Economists say consumer confidence is high, while inflation is low. Thequestion of retailers is, "are you spending, or just looking?"

"It's been pretty good," says shopper Ardell Farmer. "There sure are alot of people out here. I think everybody came out today. I just likebeing in a crowd. I'm just looking, you know."

Instead of just looking, retailers want to see people spend money.Hopefully for them, this year's shopping season will be bigger than thelast. The day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of extended hoursfor many retailers, staying open until 10 and 11:00 p.m.

If you didn't get out on Friday, or you simply didn't want to, you stillhave plenty of time until the stores close on Christmas Eve. Thoseshoppers who did fork over the dough did so mostly on clothing and otheritems put on sale for the "early birds."

Editor's Note: There may be millions of people at thestores, but that won't necessarily mean good news for retailers.

A slow buying trend may continue for a third year. Only 12% of Americanssay they plan to spend more on gifts this year than last year.Fifty-six-percent say they'll spend about the same amount. And 31% saythey are cutting back.

How much will we actually spend on those gifts? A researcher at SyracuseUniversity says the average American will spend $770. Thats about $115 less than last year.

Analysts add that most of us will be putting less of those charges on ourcredit cards.

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