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Crowds flock to stores for early-bird deals

Above, crowds walk through the Rock Hill Galleria on Friday morning. Below, Kenya Morris from Rock Hill shows off the new remote-controlled Dragonfly while shopping at Wal-Mart.

A holiday shopper makes her way through a crowded Rock Hill Galleria parking lot on Friday.
Above, crowds walk through the Rock Hill Galleria on Friday morning. Below, Kenya Morris from Rock Hill shows off the new remote-controlled Dragonfly while shopping at Wal-Mart. A holiday shopper makes her way through a crowded Rock Hill Galleria parking lot on Friday.

Shoppers hit stores and malls in full force Friday, cashing in on special "Black Friday" deals that were appealing enough to drag people with turkey hangovers out of bed before dawn.

The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales to rise 4 percent this year to $474.5 billion.

Jeff Kirby, general manager of the Rock Hill Galleria, said he didn't know if there were as many shoppers Friday as last year, but he was pleased with the turnout. Black Friday was a tax-free holiday last year.

"Tax-free day after Thanksgiving last year was certainly a plus getting people to come to South Carolina instead of going elsewhere," he said. "But we're having a good day."

Whether it was as big as last year, there was definitely a crowd out shopping in Rock Hill. Here's a snapshot of how the day went for some local folks:

• 5 a.m.: Claudia Swoope had been standing outside Target in the cold since late Thursday afternoon.

She was the first in line with her two sons, Sam, 10, and Scott, 16, who huddled underneath a blanket, waiting for the store's red doors to open at 6 a.m.

The boys wanted a PlayStation Portable and an Xbox 360. So Swoope waited, and waited, staying awake as her children dosed off.

"It's fun," she said. "It's getting in the spirit of Christmas."

Scott Swoope's opinion?

"It's borderline insane."

• 5:30 a.m.: Best Buy store supervisor Keyifa Fields had been on the clock for three hours now.

Fields manned the door, periodically letting in groups of 20 to 30 people from the line that stretched down the sidewalk and around the building.

"Everybody's been really nice," she said. "They're happy except for the cold."

The most popular items as of then were laptops and Global Positioning Systems, Fields said.

Fields said she expected her shift to last 10-12 hours.

"It goes by so fast," she said. "We're pepped up on the Monsters (energy) drink."

• 9:45 a.m.: Despite shopping since 4 a.m., Kenya Morris of Rock Hill was still going strong.

"I'm not tired yet," she said, rifling through a cart of toys for her daughter at Wal-Mart.

Morris had been to stores in Charlotte and Rock Hill.

After her trip to Wal-Mart, she planned to head back to The Children's Place in Charlotte for a second time, this time with coupons in hand.

As for her early morning outing, Morris said it wasn't bad at all.

"If you know what you're coming for, you won't have any problems," she said.

• 10 a.m.: Thea Esarove of Greenville was shopping for mp3 players at Wal-Mart. Members of her family already had visited Kohl's, Office Depot and Big Lots.

Family members woke up Friday morning with their game faces on. They split up into teams, sending two people to Office Depot in Charlotte and two to Office Depot in Rock Hill, both with the hopes of getting their hands on a laptop for $499.

"I couldn't believe everybody was out there this morning," Esarove said. "It was very successful. They got the last computer on sale."

• 2:50 p.m.: All's quiet on the crime front.

There had not been any shopping-related disturbances, said Sgt. Brent Allmon of the Rock Hill Police Department.

Allmon said extra officers were assigned to patrol the Rock Hill Galleria area, but none were asked to monitor specific stores or lines. Some stores hired off-duty officers for added security.

Calls to the police department were routine Friday and unrelated to the shopping sprees, said Allmon, who said that's usually the norm for Black Friday.

"In the recent years, most of the calls that we've had as far as disturbances, usually once whatever retailer calls, the problem's been solved before we get there," he said.

• 3:15 p.m.: The sidewalk lines were gone, but stores and parking lots were still packed.

Heinke Brodersen of Rock Hill, who doesn't usually shop on Black Friday, ventured out to T.J. Maxx at Manchester Village.

In her cart, she had Christmas table decorations and gifts for her sons and granddaughter in California.

Brodersen said she wanted to finish her shopping Friday so the gifts would be ready to send with some homemade holiday treats on Monday.

"I'm baking (today) and Sunday, and I want to get it all packed up to send to California, and I want to have it finished," she said. "They have to have their favorite cookies, so I'll be busy for the next two days."

• 3:30 p.m.: Eddie Deya of Catawba was grabbing a few minutes of rest in a chair in the middle of T.J. Maxx.

His wife was somewhere else in the store, looking at purses and shoes, Deya said.

Deya goes shopping on Black Friday every year. This year's shopping trip has lasted about three-and-a-half hours so far.

"I got what I wanted two hours ago," he joked, holding up a black leather wallet.

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