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Dawn brings shoppers out for bargains

Shoppers at Pemberton Square mall flooded stores hunting for bargains before the sun came up this morning.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[11/23/01]Shoppers hit local stores this morning responding before the sun was up to ads promising holiday bargains and prizes.

“We come just for the fun of it,” Vivian Raner said as she stood with about 200 others jockeying to be in position when McRae’s opened doors at 6. “It is a traditional thing that everybody does.”

After hitting McRae’s, Raner and her mother, Helen Safley, were spotted again among the 100 people waiting for JC Penney to open at 7 a.m.

Safley, a Greenwood resident, said for the past several years she hasn’t been able to be among early morning bargain hunters the day after Thanksgiving because she was working.

“My daughter wanted to go, so here I am,” she said.

Raner, who lives in Vicksburg, said she was feeling better than last year. Pregnant, she was dealing with a bout of morning sickness.

“I left my baby with my husband this year,” she said. “It’s a lot more fun shopping since I don’t feel sick to my stomach.”

The National Retail Federation has predicted that total holiday retail sales, excluding restaurant and auto sales, will rise by between 2.5 percent and 3 percent from last year, to roughly $206 billion. That would make this year’s retail growth the least since 1990, when sales were basically unchanged.

Last holiday season, retailers rang up $201 billion in sales, up 3.9 percent from 1999.

Phyllis Wesley said it was the thought of a good bargain that made her rise out of bed this morning in time to reach Pemberton Square mall at 7.

“If I find what I want, it is worth it,” Wesley said while waiting for Dillard’s 8 a.m. opening.

At Vicksburg Factory Outlets there were about 300 shoppers waiting for The Gap and Reebok stores when they opened at 7 a.m.

“I am expecting thousands of shoppers today,” Yolanda Martin, security officer, said.

K-Mart manager Andrew Gibbs, said if Thursday and today are any indication, holiday sales should stay strong.

“We had about 150 people waiting when we opened at 5 a.m.,” he said.

Super Wal-Mart co-manager Ann Howard said sales had been strong at the 24-hour store all morning.

“We have a houseful and we really do expect it to stay busy all day,” Howard said.

In downtown Vicksburg, shoppers were lined up as early as 5:30 a.m. at Fred’s Super Dollar Store on Washington Street.

“I think there were about 75 people waiting here when we opened at 6 and it has been steady since,” manager Kevin McAdory said.

Although many retailers around Vicksburg experienced brisk sales and crowded stores, the Thanksgiving weekend is no longer the busiest period of the season. Last year, the weekend accounted for only 8.6 percent of holiday sales.

Last-minute shoppers provide the biggest chunk of revenue, with 30.9 percent of last year’s holiday sales coming in the last week before Christmas, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.