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Shoppers swarm stores

November 29, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Debbie Baker compared the activity of Black Friday shoppers in Valley Mall to bees.

"It was busy. People were moving in swarms - like bees," said Baker, who had volunteered to wrap presents at a gift wrap center sponsored by the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Baker, along with other Clear Spring High School volunteers, estimated the group wrapped more than 100 presents as of early afternoon.

Baker said she and students wrapped a variety of presents for shoppers, including a baby stroller, but the most popular items were sweaters and pajamas.

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Black Friday, typically because of discounted retail prices, is recognized nationally as one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

"People were out just to get in the spirit of the holiday," said Karen Teach of Clear Spring High School, who volunteered at the gift wrap center.

Mike Funkhouser of Wardensville, W.Va., was strolling through the mall wearing a Santa hat. He said the large crowds didn't faze him.

"This is a family tradition with us," Funkhouser said of venturing out on Black Friday.

Funkhouser said his wife, his two teenage children and three sisters accompanied him to the mall looking for bargains.

He said his son recently returned home from college and "the first thing he said is, 'Are we going shopping Friday?'"

"So it's something we all look forward to," Funkhouser said.

Funkhouser said his family usually shops in Winchester, Va., but they aren't always successful in finding what they're looking for there.

"There are quite a few stores in the mall that we don't have in Winchester," he said.

Dolly Wakefield of Mount Union, Pa., giggled when asked what time she started shopping on Black Friday.

"We went to Wal-Mart at 5:30 a.m.," said her daughter, Bonnie Varner, also of Mt. Union. They then made a stop at the mall.

Varner said some of the items she wanted to buy were Game Boys, a DVD player and a Cabbage Patch doll.

Varner said she and her family look for different places to shop every year.

"We leave early and come home late," she said.

While the mall officials were having problems with the system they use to count shoppers, Marketing Director Julie Rohm estimated that Black Friday this year would attract more people than last year's shopping day.

"We're doing very well," Rohm said. "Merchants are very pleased with the results so far."

Rohm said JCPenney was having such a success with its "doorbuster" sale that the store extended it by 45 minutes to 12:45 p.m. A doorbuster sale encourages customers to buy particular items by a certain time in order to qualify for additional discounts, Rohm said.

"They couldn't ring people up fast enough," she said.

James Hornsby, manager of Wal-Mart Supercenter in the Centre at Hagerstown, said customers began filling up the parking lot in the early morning hours.

"It's one time of the year that our parking lot isn't big enough," Hornsby said.

The supercenter's sales began at 6 a.m., and people snatched up electronics and DVD players, he said.

"Based on last year, there were a lot more people here this year," Hornsby said. "It's hard to prepare for that many people bombarding the store."

"It was a good morning," he said. "I'm sure it'll be a good day for us."

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