Expanded hours greet Black Friday shoppers

Nov. 23, 2012 @ 03:16 PM

Once again Black Friday shoppers began hitting stores early to find the best deals.

While some encountered long lines as they waited for stores to open, the crowds appeared to die down as the morning hours passed and some said they thought the lines and crowds were smaller this year.

Black Friday is more important this year than ever because growing comfort with online shopping throughout the country has put more pressure on brick-and-mortar stores, which depend heavily on the holiday season.

Some stores are experimenting with ways to compete with online rivals such as Amazon.com. Retailers were hoping that earlier openings this year will help boost sales this holiday season.

Walmart and Target were two places many in Union County named as places they were trying to get to early Friday.

"I don't even try malls," Andrea Kelly, who was out early shopping with her daughter Friday morning, said.

She has shopped on Black Friday before and prefers to stay away from the large crowds that can gather at malls and instead hit other stores. She actually started her Black Friday Shopping at Walmart the night before and made her way to the stores in the Poplin Place shopping center on Roosevelt Boulevard in Monroe the morning afterwards. As of about 7 a.m. Friday, she felt her Black Friday experiences so far this year have been good and that the lines and crowds weren't that bad. For instance, she didn't encounter a lot of problems getting in and out of Walmart Thursday night, she said.

"Right now it's going well," Scarlet Kelly, Andrea Kelly's daughter who was shopping on Black Friday for the first time, said.

About 17 percent of shoppers earlier this month said they planned to shop at stores that opened on Thanksgiving, according to a an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey. Overall, it's estimated that sales on Black Friday will be up 3.8 percent to $11.4 billion this year.

In a lot of places family members could be found shopping together alongside individuals, friends and other groups who came out for the annual event.

When it came to Janet Wright's family, mom, children and grandmother could all be found shopping together in the early morning hours of the holiday. Wright along with her sons Caleb and Jake and their grandmother, Elaine Johnson, began Black Friday at 4 a.m. They began their shopping at Walmart and had just finished shopping at Target around 7 a.m. when they planned to take a break to get something to eat.

"I think it's great, we've been able to find what we wanted," Wright said.

They weren't looking for anything specific on Black Friday but were able to find a lot of potential Christmas presents and other items they were interested in. She and Johnson are regular Black Friday shoppers but this was the first year for her two sons, she said.

For Lisa Kelley, shopping Black Friday was also a family affair.

This year she was out shopping with her niece and sister-in-law. She's shopped Black Friday before and this year was interested in the TVs the stores were offering. She began her Black Friday shopping around 6 p.m. Thursday at the Walmart in Locust and continued on into Friday by making stops to the Walmart in Monroe, Target, Big Lots and K-mart, Kelley said.

The Associated Press also contributed to this story.