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November 24, 2012

Shoppers swarm Cullman for Black Friday

Morgan Jowers might just be a recent Cullman High grad, but when it comes to Black Friday shopping she’s a seasoned veteran. The mission this year?

“Boots.”

Jowers spent Thursday night camped out at Cullman Shopping Center waiting for  Belk to open, pouring over Black Friday advertisements to game plan her approach once the doors opened at midnight.

After battling the crowds a few years now, she said she’s learned a few tricks.

“You have to fight your way through these things. It's tough being a woman,” she joked. “One thing I’ve figured out: Use your elbows.”

The annual post-Thanksgiving shopping holiday has become a U.S. tradition in recent years, earning the Black Friday moniker by generating so much business it helps push retailers into the “black” heading into the holiday season.

State and national trends expected more shoppers than last year, and around Cullman there was no shortage of deal-seekers.

A former employee in the retail industry, Teresa Schlosser arrived extremely early outside Belk to stake out a spot near the front of the line. After working the other side of Black Friday, she knows the best approach is to just bring a blanket and get ready to wait.

“It’s all about the deals. I’ve been doing it for years,” she said. “I just need to get a few things and I didn't want to fight the crowds at Walmart and Kmart.”

Teenager Jarred McBride had never shopped on Black Friday before this year, but came out to try and pick up a gift for his mother. To improve his odds, he stopped by the store a day early to get a lay of the land.

“I’ve never done this before, but my mom told me to get her a coffeepot,” he said. “We came up here yesterday and I tried to go hide a few things, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Braving the cool temps for several hours, Cullman resident Brandon Stapleton tried to bring an entrepreneurial sprit to the post-Thanksgiving festivities.

“I'm going to wait until about 11:30 p.m., then bid my spot out,” he joked, as the line continued to pile up behind him at around 10:30 p.m.

Stores across the city were packed, and Walmart was filled from Thursday night well into Friday. A representative from the local Kmart said a new staggered sales plan this year was a hit with shoppers.

“We’ve been very busy and pretty steady throughout,” Kmart manager Terry Glass said. “[Friday] morning was a bit slower than usual, but it’s been slammed the rest of the day, so it’s going really well.”

Interim Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce President Leah Bolin said the big turnout followed a positive trend that’s been building all year, and she was proud to see so many people shopping local.

“That’s what it’s all about, supporting your local community first. We’re so excited that people made it a priority to get out and support the local shops and restaurants,” she said. “This is good for the local economy, state economy and the nation.”

According to the Alabama Retail Association, 2012 holiday sales will be at least 4 percent higher than the $8.8 billion spent during November and December of 2011. Alabama residents could spend about $350 million more this holiday season than in 2011. Holiday spending in Alabama grew 4.41 percent over 2010.

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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