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Midnight deals kick off Black Friday shopping
Spending might not be as high as in years past
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Teresa Resendiz, left, and Lorena Reveles look over some of the bargains early this morning at the KB Toys at the North Georgia Premium Outlet Mall. - photo by Tom Reed

Coming Sunday

Holiday shoppers too easily become the target of identity thieves. In Sunday’s Times, learn how to protect yourself and hear about one family’s struggles to recover from identity theft.

It’s called Midnight Madness, but few waited until midnight to get ready. For the fourth year, many stores at North Georgia Premium Outlets opened their doors for a day of shopping that continued until 10 p.m. Friday.

But shoppers like Jessica Mason of Murrayville already were looking for bargains by 10:30 p.m. Thursday when a few of the stores opened before midnight.

"I’m looking for anything on sale," Mason said. "Toys, jeans, purses, shoes, just about everything." She said it will take steeper discounts of 40 percent or more to attract her attention. Once again, the largest crowd was drawn to the Coach store, where an estimated crowd of 200 waited patiently for the chance to enter the store.

Donna Gooden of Sugar Hill and her sister, Cheryl Minard of Portsmouth, N.H., bought Coach purses as Christmas gifts for each other.

"In New Hampshire, we’d never find lines like this at a Coach place," Minard said.

Janet Still, was among those wait a turn to go inside the Coach store. On her arm, she carried a Coach purse from a previous shopping outing.

"I think I’m going to find an excellent deal, plus I’ve got a coupon in my pocket for an extra 10 percent," said Still, who was joined in line by her husband, Ricky. They had driven an hour from their home in Grayson for the shopping adventure. "Instead of deer hunting, he’s with me tonight," she said.

At the Ashworth store, which specializes in golf equipment and apparel, Charlie Mason of Buford found a bargain in golf balls.

"I found a dozen balls for $5, a $10 wind vest and a free T-shirt," Mason said.

At KB Toys, the hot sellers were zero gravity remote control cars and night vision goggles.

"I’m looking to see what kind of deals I can find on toys for my grandchild," said Karen Hill of Atlanta.

By midnight, all of the 4,000 parking places at the outlet mall were taken, and customers were parking on the grass and along the side of Ga. 400. Northbound traffic coming from the Atlanta area was bumper to bumper for more than a mile.

"Midnight Madness has become the Super Bowl of shopping," said Heather Rittner, area manager of North Georgia Premium Outlets. "The customer expects it and our retailer wants it. Our first stores opened by 9 p.m. and sales are great."

The frenzy at Dawsonville was the beginning of what retailers are hoping will be a busy day of shopping to bolster sagging sales leading up to the start of the holiday season.

Many stores are offering deep discounts, as well as a number of doorbusters — specially priced items to lure customers into their shops.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, 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 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 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 group hasn’t released estimates for Black Friday sales this year, but experts believe it will remain one of the season’s biggest selling days, even as shoppers remain deliberate in their spending.

"This is definitely a hit-and-run mentality," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group. "They are running in, grabbing the deal and running out. This is what I am seeing this morning."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.