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Bargain hunting
Shoppers get up early for deals

BUFORD - Sharon McBride arrived at the Mall of Georgia before it opened Friday, ready to take advantage of the bargains.

"I do this every year. I like to get a jump on Christmas," the Buford resident said. "I love the season."

Nearly eight hours later, McBride sat in a chair near the carousel with a large shopping bag by her feet while her husband watched a movie. She said she had made a few trips to her car to drop off other purchases.

Shoppers swarmed the state's largest mall the day after Thanksgiving, and stores posted promises of slashed prices and other sales to lure them inside.

Kelly Fox, the director of mall marketing, said stores were "stepping up" their deals - and their customer service - this year.

"The deals this year are great," she said. "The mall manager said we had an excellent crowd at 5 a.m. (the time the mall opened). We had a lot more than we expected."

Indiana resident Dimmis Cummings said she "dragged" her husband, Jason, out to find some Black Friday bargains.

"I think people are coming out only for deals - because of deals," she said, after making a department store purchase at the Buford mall. "They came out here with a mission."

Jason Cummings said he started the day - his first Black Friday shopping experience - with a trip to Kohl's at 4 a.m.

"They had some good deals," he said. "The line for the cashier was wrapped around to the end of the store."

Mississippi resident Kaneisha Green came to the mall with her sister, a Lawrenceville resident. She said she has visited the Mall of Georgia, but this was her first time shopping there on Black Friday.

"The sales are really good, but the lines are really long," she said.

A South Georgia resident who came to the mall after spending Thanksgiving with his parents in Union County said he was surprised by the number of shoppers - and not because there were more than he expected.

"We thought there would be more people here, even with the economic situation," Edison resident Richard Gay said.

Gay didn't plan to buy anything on Black Friday, his first trip to the Mall of Georgia.

"We finished all of our shopping already," he said.

Black Friday received its name because it historically was the day when a surge of shoppers helped stores break into profitability for the full year. But this year, with rampant promotions of up to 70 percent throughout the month including even at luxury stores like Saks Fifth Avenue amid a deteriorating economy, the power of this landmark day for the retail industry could be fading. Still, while it isn't a predictor of holiday sales, the day after Thanksgiving is an important barometer of people's willingness to spend for the rest of the season. And particularly this year, analysts will dissect how the economy is shaping buying habits in a season that many analysts predict could see a contraction in spending from a year ago.

Last year, the Thanksgiving shopping weekend of Friday through Sunday accounted for about 10 percent of overall holiday sales, according to ShopperTrak RCT Corp.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report