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Braving Black Friday

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- By 6 a.m. Friday at the Charleston Town Center mall, Katlyn Giles said she'd walked off her big Thanksgiving meal after a more than 10-hour Black Friday shopping spree.

The 14-year-old Pratt resident and her friend, Brooke Young, 15, sat on the mall's newly carpeted floor with their shoes off, surrounded by shopping bags full of clothes.

And that wasn't even half of their holiday purchases at the mall. They'd already made a trip to the car, Giles said.

The duo -- along with Giles' mom and aunt -- started their shopping adventures at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, when they waited in Target's long line, which snaked around the outside of the store.

Once the ladies finally set foot in the checkout line at Corridor G's Target, they waited in the line more than three hours, Giles said.

With no sleep, Giles and Young stayed awake with a midnight snack and free milkshakes at Chick-fil-A at the mall's food court.

"I can't wait to sleep, but this was fun and worth it," Giles said. "We're still planning on going back out to Corridor G to shop at Michael's."

More than 147 million people were expected to shop over the Black Friday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.

Last year, traffic and spending were up both online and in stores, reaching historic highs, according to the NRF. A record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the Black Friday weekend in 2011, up from 212 million in 2010.

The average holiday shopper spent about $400 in 2011 throughout the weekend, up from $365 in 2010, which totaled $52.4 billion, according to the NRF. Americans' holiday spending is expected to increase more than 4 percent -- to $586.1 billion -- in November and December.

Lisa Shiltz of Cross Lanes said she saved more than $100 at the Gander Mountain store in Southridge Centre when they matched a competitor's price. She started shopping there at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. 

Shiltz, who is a regular deal-finder on Black Friday, made a list of the time that every store in town opened.

After buying presents at Kmart on Patrick Street, she headed to the mall for the anchor stores' door-buster sales.

Shiltz strolled the mall for a couple hours to wait for JCPenney to open at 6 a.m. When she walked out almost an hour later, she and her shopping partners carried pots, pans and pillows.

"I haven't eaten since my Thanksgiving dinner at 6 p.m. yesterday," Shiltz said, clinching bags of bargains. "We've been to the car four times."

Many Black Friday shoppers ended their holiday meal early so they could be in line at stores that had earlier special hours.

Walmart, Toys R Us and Sears opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Target opened one hour later and other stores, such as Best Buy, Kohl's, and Macy's, welcomed customers at midnight.

Nearly one-quarter of Black Friday shoppers were at stores by midnight on Black Friday last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Two years ago, just 9 percent of shoppers went out that early.

When the mall opened at midnight, customers flocked to Francesca's for its door buster, which was 75 percent off clearance items, said employee Emily Hall.

Francesca's, which sells fashion-forward style in women's clothing, accessories and gifts, celebrated Black Friday for the first time at the mall.

The store's manager talked with other store employees in the mall and other Francesca's store managers to prepare for the busy hours of nonstop shoppers, Hall said.

"I was really scared how it would go, but it's been smooth," Hall said.

Muranda White, an employee at the girls clothing store Justice, said she was intimidated to work Black Friday because it was only her second day on the job.

At midnight, parents and their children clapped with cheer when workers opened the doors, White said.

Some tired shoppers lounged on the mall's new furniture while others munched on free samples from Hickory Farms. The line never seemed to slow down at the Starbucks.

A majority of those who walked in and out of the stores at the Town Center mall Friday morning were women. But Ed and Brian Sullivan said they actually enjoy the chaotic shopping day.

The father and son traveled from Hurley, Va., with their wives and Brian's teenage daughters.

Since there isn't a mall near the family's rural home, they make the 2 1/2-hour drive each year on Black Friday.

The two men sat on a bench and stared through the mall's new glass handrails as the women they came with shopped in Victoria's Secret.

"We do a lot of people watching," Brian Sullivan said.

"We are the bag carriers and it frees their hands up," Ed Sullivan added.

They enjoy visiting stores like Sears and Foot Locker and they always get to pick where the group eats lunch.

"It'll more than likely be a steakhouse," Brian Sullivan said with a smile.

But for the father and son, the day is more about spending time with their family, they said.

"You gotta come in with a calm attitude and enjoy time with your family," Ed Sullivan said.

Sisters Alisha Foster and Brandi Hackney, both of Sissonville, said they visit the mall on Black Friday because stores like Walmart can get dangerous.

"I think the mall is safer than Walmart because I don't want to get beat up over a Furby," Hackney said. "And people in general help you a lot quicker at the mall than someone at Walmart."

The sisters -- who got to the mall at 4:30 a.m. -- shopped at Sears and appreciated a chance to unload all of their bags in the store's cart.

"We spent the night together and you have to stay together throughout the whole shopping day," Hackney said.

Hackney said she likes the mall's $7 million renovations. Not only does the shopping complex have a better appearance, but the carpet is comfortable to walk on, she said.

For the teenage friends who had shopped for more than 10 hours, staying comfortable while shopping is key, Giles said.

"Definitely wear some comfortable shoes," she said.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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