Shoppers delighted with deals, retailers thrilled with crowds on Black Friday

A stack of video games and DVDs in his clutches, Brandon Moriarty weaved his way through hoards of fellow bargain-hunters before dawn Friday at Beaufort's Best Buy store.

Hundreds of shoppers braved the chilly temperatures, flooding northern Beaufort County retailers to take advantage of Black Friday discounts and door-buster deals.

A Black Friday veteran, Moriarty said getting up before sunrise is an integral part of the experience.

"I don't know if it would be as fun if the deals started at noon," Moriarty said. "That sounds a little crazy, but it's an experience. This is what you do the day after Thanksgiving. You wake up way too early and get some good bargains. Everyone likes a good bargain."

Of the 134 million shoppers expected to take advantage of Black Friday deals this year, about 40 percent were expected to hit the stores between midnight and 6 a.m., according to the National Retail Federation.

Considered by many to be the official start of the Christmas shopping season, Black Friday is a critical day for retailers as sales often help push stores into profitability. Shoppers nationwide spent $41 billion on Black Friday last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Big business Friday could help retailers overcome grim forecasts of another rough holiday shopping season.

Shoppers polled nationwide last month said they plan to spend roughly $638 on Christmas gifts this year, down from $740 in October, according to a Gallup poll.

In the market for a digital camera and a new television, Steve Mason of Lady's Island said the economy won't play a large role in how he spends his money this Christmas.

"The economy feels like it's calmed down some and everyone feels a little better about spending more this year," Mason said. "Last Christmas was just a few months after the economy really went south and everyone was a little scared to go out and spend a lot on gifts, myself included."

While some shoppers hit stores with a sense of urgency and precisely timed itineraries, others shopped Friday with a more spontaneous approach.

"I'm not really looking to pick up anything in particular," Jennifer Sebane of Beaufort said as she wandered the aisles of Walmart. "I'll get most of my shopping done between now and Christmas but I'm just here to see if there are any good deals. Maybe I'll go home with something I didn't expect."

Booming Black Friday business wasn't limited to Beaufort's big box retailers as shoppers hit Bay Street businesses as well.

"We're extremely busy and we're having a wonderful day," said Louise Larch of Fordham Market.