Buyers drawn by bargains

December 02, 2002|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - While Black Friday brought out crowds of shoppers who stood shoulder-to-shoulder in some Hagerstown-area businesses, Juanita Vanderpool said she has seen far worse.

"Have you been to northern Virginia?" Vanderpool asked while taking a break from shopping at Prime Outlets of Hagerstown. "This is not a crowd."

Vanderpool and her daughters make an annual trip from Manassas, Va., to Hagerstown, where they say they can shop in leisure and find good sales. She said there's usually no room to move in stores in the Manassas area.


"You have to look, but you can find some really good sales," said Vanderpool's daughter, Trish Tharp. "And if you get there early enough, you can get extra discounts."

Tharp said her family arrived at the outlets at 7:30 a.m. and planned to spend two days shopping there.

Liza Gonzales, marketing director of Prime Outlets, reported the shopping center was packed with customers who began arriving as early as 4 a.m. to get a first shot at sales.

The GAP Outlet and other anchor stores opened at 4 a.m., while the rest of the shops opened at 8 a.m., Gonzales said.

"The customers were ready to get in the stores," she said.

Gonzales said 80 shops at the outlets will be offering holiday discounts through the weekend as part of the Get More program. Get More fliers offer discounts that include 50 percent off and buy one, get one free promotions, she said.

Valley Mall Marketing Director Julie Simmons said shoppers began arriving at the mall at 6 a.m. when the department stores opened. Just before KB Toys opened at 5 a.m., a line formed from the entrance of the store and wrapped around toward the entrance of the mall, she said.

By 1 p.m. the mall had 27,263 shoppers, the most since 1999 when it saw 26,530 customers by 1 p.m.

By 5 p.m., the number of shoppers increased to 45,655, or 3 percent more than in 1999.

Simmons said things were going smoothly at the mall.

"The lines are moving quickly," she said.

Wal-Mart Supercenter Store Manager James Hornsby estimated the store on Garland Groh Boulevard had more than 1,000 people in it about 6 p.m. He said just about every shopping cart was being used at the time.

Rhonda Myers of Clear Spring and her friend, Karen Kicklighter of Hagerstown, set out to look for sales at 5:30 a.m. As of about 11 a.m. the two had made it only to Wal-Mart and Kmart.

"It's a cold one, but it isn't too bad," said Myers, who also said she likes shopping on Black Friday - the traditional start of the holiday shopping season on the Friday after Thanksgiving - because "It's crazy."

Myers said she picked up HotWheels and a BB gun at Kmart.

In addition to discount prices, Kmart offered an incentive for shoppers who arrived at the store early. The first 300 customers received a complimentary copy of Martha Stewart's Holiday Baking magazine, according to Kmart headquarters in Troy, Mich.

Kicklighter said she had better luck shopping last year on Black Friday because she found more sales.

"Last year was a lot better than this year," she said.

At Target in Hagerstown, empty shopping carts left in the parking lot were quickly grabbed by customers who had just arrived, and store fliers blew in the breeze in front of the entrance.

"It's been wild," said Nancy Ruff, who left Cumberland, Md., at 5 a.m. to shop with her sister-in-law, Brenda Clark of Beaver, Pa. "This is our first time."

Ruff and Clark said they while stores were crowded, they were able to find sales and enjoyed the Black Friday experience.

"It hasn't been that bad. The people have been nice," Clark said.

"We haven't come across one rude person," Ruff said.

According to the Gallup Organization, which surveyed 3,000 consumers, Americans are projected to spend an average of $769 on gifts this holiday - about $51 less than last year, which in turn was lower than in 2000 and 1999.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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