Shoppers braved congested roads and crowded stores on Black Friday, a day historically known as the busiest retail shopping day of the year.

Cullman residents and shoppers from neighboring counties visited local retail locations to search for Christmas gifts, and many said they expected to get more than half of their shopping done by the time stores closed Friday night. While an early surge of shoppers poured into retailers just after stores opened for early-bird sales at 5 a.m., the largest crowds appeared during the afternoon hours outside Wal-Mart, the Cullman Shopping Center, and the Market Platz Center near Wal-Mart.

Gardendale resident Jaime Perry was shopping with her mother, Terri Weekley, who lives in Cullman. They had just left Wal-Mart, and said checkout lines were short Friday afternoon.

“It’s not crowded in there,” Weekley said. “We even got up to a register with no waiting. We just walked right up.”

The two agreed special events like door busters and early bird sales are the main reason they enjoy shopping the day after Thanksgiving. They said they expected to be finished with about half of their Christmas shopping Friday.

Sisters Pam and Kaci Williams, and a family friend, April Burgess, left home at 4:45 a.m. to begin the Williams’ annual tradition of non-stop shopping on Black Friday. The day marked Burgess’ first time on an all-day shopping trip the day after Thanksgiving.

She said she didn’t find local stores overwhelmingly packed, though some customers seemed stressed.

“I was excited,” Burgess said. “I think people get a little — not pushing and shoving — just not talking very nice to each other.”

For Terry Martin, who was loading merchandise he bought from stores in the Cullman Shopping Center into his vehicle Friday afternoon, an all-day shopping odyssey is an annual post-Thanksgiving tradition. Martin said he usually wakes up early to get a head start on early-bird sales while most of his family is still in bed. Martin drove from Kimberly to shop in Cullman.

“I left the house at 4:30 this morning,” he said.

Martin estimated he completed about 30 percent of his Christmas shopping Friday, and said despite a large number of sales, he saw “a lot of good deals, but not enough product for the good deals.”

“Most stores ran out,” he said.

Martin said in the long run, battling crowds of over-stressed, sleep-deprived shoppers is worth the money he saves during the holiday shopping season.

“Every time I do it, I say it’s not worth it, but I do it every time,” he said. “So I think yeah, you save a few bucks.”

Wal-Mart spokesman Wayne Howard said the largest crowds at the store came in early in the morning, and remained steady throughout the day.

“It backed off after the first part of the blitz, and it’s been steady” Howard said. “A lot of times you’ll get a rush a little bit later in the evening after people are heading home to wherever they have been with family, and then they will stop by and pick up the essentials that they do need.”

While the day after Thanksgiving has historically been the busiest retail shopping day of the year, a time many consider the official beginning of the Christmas season, it is not typically the day with the highest sales volume. According to Wikipedia.com, the shopping days bringing the highest sales volume are Christmas Eve, the last Saturday before Christmas, or Dec. 26.

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