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Black Friday Shoppers Crowd So. Fla. Malls

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MIAMI (CBS4) – Doors opened at midnight in some malls and stores across South Florida as thousands of shoppers arrived for Black Friday with one thought in mind: finding the most gifts while paying the least for them.

Early turnouts from across the country, and South Florida, pointed to a solid turnout for the traditional start to the holiday shopping season. Retailers are saying more shoppers appeared to be buying for themselves, which economists say is an encouraging sign for retailers.

Retail analyst Marshal Cohen estimated that 15 percent of purchases so far on Friday were for themselves. That number bottomed out in 2008 when it was roughly 8 percent. During good economic times, that number is up around 26 percent.

The Black Friday deals lured thousands of shoppers who were mostly looking for deals in electronics, but many shoppers who spoke to CBS4’s Sharrie Williams and Gio Benitez said they had also gotten good deals on clothes.

For the first time in its mall history, Dolphin Mall opened at midnight as did Sawgrass Mills Mall and shoppers said they got great deals on clothes and electronics.

“I usually don’t do this every year, so first experience, but it was fun,” said shopper Jackie Mulato.

Buyers started bargain hunting early trading Black Friday with Head Start Thursday. That’s because some South Florida stores opened on Thanksgiving Day, while others opened closer to midnight, but no matter what time they opened, they were ready for a virtually army of shoppers.

“It was very crowded, very long lines in all the stores,” shopper Lainy Mejia said.

Walmart, which had drawn scrutiny in years past as shoppers rushed the doors so much that a worker in the northeast died while being stampeded, kept its doors open all night to head off potential problems. The sales didn’t start until roughly 5 a.m., but shoppers still filled the stores.

Susan Stoff waited in line for the Dolphin Mall doors to open for hours and shopped so much she needed a shopping cart and a change of shoes.

“After about three hours of walking in my heels, Disney Store happened to have these (shoes) for $4.99,” Stoff said. “Even though they’re child-sized, I put them on and wore them out of the store.”

Still, many stores took a different route and offered exclusive deals online on Thursday to pull in shoppers before Black Friday. According to IBM’s Coremetrics, online sales soared 33 percent on the holiday compared with Thanksgiving 2009.

The National Retail Federation is predicting sales will jump 2.3% over last holiday season, with shoppers planning to spend about $688 on average. Last year, the Thanksgiving shopping weekend accounted for 12.3 percent of overall holiday revenue, according to ShopperTrak.

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