Black Friday action: Shoppers are eager for deals

Many Tysons Corners shops opened their doors at midnight on Thanksgiving, to allow those shoppers hunting for Black Friday deals an extra five hours of savings. Shoppers and store managers talk about the rush, their shopping lists, and the economy.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 26, 2010; 10:23 PM

The traditional holiday shopping season kicked off Friday with retailers reporting longer lines than last year and customers saying they were more willing to spend, boosting hopes that the coming weeks could give the economy a badly needed nudge.

Although some shoppers said they were more eager than a year ago to trade up - for pricier electronics, for example - and even to spend on themselves, they remained cautious about parting with too much of their money.

Still, parking lots filled, traffic backed up and customers searched for discounts throughout the Washington region on Black Friday as streams of shoppers supported industry predictions of an upbeat retail season.

At the Gap at Tysons Corner Center, where signs announced "50% OFF EVERYTHING," there was a little bit of jostling - "I saw that toddler's peacoat first!" - and a lot of messy merchandising. Store employees couldn't refold and rehang clothes as quickly as shoppers picked through them in search of the deal of the day.

"This is crazy," a woman cried as she saw the 60-deep line at the register. "Let's get out of here." She dropped a handful of items on a table of sweaters and bolted.

An hour before the half-off-everything sale ended at Urban Outfitters, there were four dozen people waiting outside.

"We've been at capacity since midnight," said Jamie Harrison, a department manager. The line had stretched from the store into a nearby mall parking lot two hours before the "midnight madness" opening. "It's definitely a lot busier than last year," she said.

The retail industry projected that about 138 million people would go shopping over the long weekend, up from 134 million last year.

One of the busiest shopping days of the year, Black Friday bears that name because it is traditionally when many retailers go from losing money to making a profit. The National Retail Federation estimates Black Friday sales figures but won't release them until Sunday.

"We kind of have a barbell effect going on," said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture's retail practice. "We see luxury retailers rebounding and discounters putting compelling offers out there to get the people looking for value."

By noon, the crowds swelled at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, where shoppers talked of driving around in the lots 20 minutes to find a parking space. There were deep lines at cash registers. There were no empty seats in the food court.

But Black Friday shoppers were mostly undeterred.

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