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Black Friday

November 26, 2005|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Cars circled mall parking lots like sharks prowling for the most coveted morsels of meat, or in this case, the parking spots closest to the entrance.

Inside Valley Mall, benches and chairs came at a premium, as well. Weary post-Thanksgiving shoppers crowded the bench space. The second they stood up, their seats were quickly filled by another bag-toting bargain hunter.

Hordes of shoppers kicked off opening day to the countdown to Christmas retailers call Black Friday. Last year, Black Friday raked in the second largest amount of holiday sales, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based consultant firm that tracks retail sales.

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Hoping to get in profits before winter heating bills start pounding consumers' pockets, several stores broke out the Christmas gear early this year. But still, most businesses saved the serious bargains for the day after Thanksgiving.

The Black Friday shopping surge seemed strong at shopping centers throughout Hagerstown. Several stores opened as early as 5 a.m., and in many cases lines were just short of ridiculous.

Early-bird shoppers at Wal-Mart could get lap tops for $378. Digital cameras went for $88.

At Old Navy, people waited as long as 30 minutes for an available cash register, said Allie Dietrich, who works at the store. At one point, the line was so long that it reached the back of the store.

Dietrich, 18, of Smithsburg, came in to work at 5 a.m. but wasn't scheduled to leave until 4 p.m., she said. Her co-worker Katie Mayseenkl, said there really wasn't a good time to beat the crowd.

"Once you think there's a break, another rush comes in," said Katie, 16, of Hagerstown..

Crowds weren't much lighter at The Center at Hagerstown, especially around Borders, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Wal-Mart. Even the last rows of parking spaces were full.

"We were lucky to find a parking space," said Sarie Dickie, of Waynesboro.

Dickie shopped for Christmas gifts and holiday decorations at A.C. Moore with her daughter, Jessica Dickie.

Jessica Dickie, who lives in New York City, said she purposely waited until she came home for the holidays to stock up on materials for handmade greeting cards.

"I buy all my paper here," she said. "It's so much cheaper here than it is in Manhattan."

At Valley Mall, crowds were thick with shoppers. There were barely any open tables at the food court.

The Zomak family took a food break after seven hours of shopping. "We'll stop whenever the kids start whining," said Judie Zomak, of Greencastle. "Then it's time to go."

Zomak, who came to Valley Mall with her mother-in-law and three children, had already dumped five bags of new goods in the trunk of her car since they arrived.

As they munched on pizza, Zomak shuffled through four more bags of goods that filled her toddler's stroller.

"Things were so cheap," Zomak said. "You didn't plan on buying it, but you end up grabbing it because it's so cheap."

Many of those items they bought were Christmas gifts. "Somebody wanted to peek in the bag, but I wouldn't let her," said mother-in-law Tina Zomak, referring to Judie Zomak's daughter Haley Zomak, 8.

Frank Hanna was one of the few people at the mall without a single shopping bag.

Hanna, of Port Lucie, Fla., sat on a comfy green couch reading "The Jamson Directive" by Robert Ludlum.

"My Shopping's done already," said Hanna, who owns a home in Martinsburg, W. Va. "I'm waiting on my wife."

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