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Shopping for a thrill

November 23, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

TRI-STATE - For Black Friday shoppers, it's all about the "experience."

Like the experience Kim Brown, 37, and her aunt, Bonnie Forsyth, 58, once shared outside Bon-Ton at 5:30 a.m.

They were waiting for an early-bird sale upon the store's 6 a.m. opening - only to remember a half-hour later that the item they wanted was at Hecht's, not Bon-Ton.

"I don't even remember what it was we were there to get," said Forsyth, of Clear Spring. "All I know is we waited outside all that time and we were at the wrong store. By the time we figured it out, it was too late. The item was gone."

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has earned the reputation as the busiest shopping day of the year and, for some, has become a reason to avoid malls altogether. A poll released by a St. Louis-based marketing-research firm found that nearly two of every three shoppers planned to avoid shopping Friday. The poll, released Nov. 9, surveyed 1,192 people Oct. 6 to 17.

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According to ShopperTrack, a Chicago-based market-research firm, Black Friday is not expected to be the busiest shopping day this year. The firm estimates that Saturday, Dec. 23, will be the season's busiest shopping day.

Bargain hunters already are searching the Internet for Black Friday deals. And retailers are bracing for the unofficial kickoff to the Christmas shopping season.

Several department stores at Valley Mall are opening at 5 a.m. Prime Outlets at Hagerstown will open at 12 a.m.

The National Retail Federation estimates that individuals will spend about $791 each on gifts this time of year.

"We never go," Mike West, 41, of Chambersburg, Pa., said of himself and his wife Jody, 37. "Actually, what we do is we get someone we know is going shopping on Black Friday and get them to buy things for us."

Karlin Flanigan, 18, and her mother, Kathy Flanigan, 45, don't plan to shop Friday, but they are planning to go to the mall to watch other shoppers.

"It's been so long since I've been out on a Black Friday," Flanigan said. "I just want to see what people do. We just want to see the excitement."

Unlike her mother, Karlin Flanigan occasionally likes to venture out shopping on Black Friday. She recalled waiting in line at Circuit City for 25 minutes to get a $30 DVD player one year. She also remembered when she was 9 and really wanted a Barbie doll that was on sale at Wal-Mart.

"You know where women's apparel is? The line was wrapped all around there," she said. "We waited so long that after a while, my mom gave up. We just left the store. I never got the Barbie."

Despite their past experience, Brown and Forsyth said they will be among the early-bird shoppers to hit the stores Friday.

"We're bargain hunters," Forsyth said. "I think it's worth it, if you can take it, if you can get in early and get out."

Black Friday wasn't always "crazy," said June Andrews, 82, of Hagerstown.

"It used to be pleasant," Andrews said of shopping downtown as a teenager. "People aren't as sociable any more."

She recalled the hysteria the Cabbage Patch Kids caused in the 1980s and said she anticipated the recently released Sony PlayStation 3 would cause a similar craze.

"I'm not sleeping on the ground in a tent in a parking lot for anything," Andrews said.

Freda Nunamaker, 85, of Hagerstown, said she has never shopped on Black Friday.

"I never had any desire to be out there," she said. "I figured what I wanted would be there later."

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