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Shoppers swarm stores for Black Friday deals

Black Friday 2011

Aida Ahmed

People wait outside a Henderson Game Stop on Thanksgiving night, hours before Black Friday sales began.

Updated Friday, Nov. 25, 2011 | 2:07 p.m.

Shoppers line up for Black Friday sales

KSNV coverage of buildup to Black Friday shopping frenzy, Nov. 24, 2011.

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A crowd of shoppers waits outside of Target, 605 N. Stephanie St., on Nov. 24, 2011, hours before the midnight opening for Black Friday deals.

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Shoppers leave Walmart with carts of merchandise. The 24-hour retail store sold discounted video games and household products like vacuums, crock pots and blenders discounted for Black Friday.

Black Friday shoppers are out in force today -- for some, their second day of shopping because some stores opened their doors Thursday night.

On the Strip, Jim McMichael, marketing director at Fashion Show Mall, said the crowds were larger than ever. Forever 21 and Macy’s were among several retailers in the mall that opened at midnight, a Black Friday first for the mall. Last year, only three stores in the mall were open at midnight and none were department stores. Today, the entire mall opened at 6 a.m.

“I think the public has seen that it’s O.K. to spend, even though it’s still a little bit difficult here locally," McMichael said. "Las Vegas is a 24-hour town and the volume of tourists that we get during the Thanksgiving holiday, they expect everything to be open on the Strip.”

And for their part, “retailers are trying to test and see (if) something works better if we open up at 10 p.m. or midnight,” said McMichael.

Matthew Robinson, a flight attendant in town from the United Kingdom, was surprised by the calm Black Friday scene at Town Square.

“There’s not been as many people about here as I thought,” said Robinson. “It’s a better experience than it was last year when we were here, we were at the Fashion Show Mall.”

Shey Bishop wasn’t taking any chances on missing out on the Black Friday sales at the Target store on Stephanie Street in Henderson.

Bundled up in a jumpsuit and winter hat, she showed up at 7 o’clock Thanksgiving morning — 17 hours before the store opened at midnight — to make sure she was first in line.

“We had Thanksgiving on Tuesday so we could specifically all be here today just for some of the deals they have this year,” said Bishop, who was joined in line by friends seated in lawn chairs. “With the cost of things, I wanted to save money, as much as I could, and get some of the stuff here.”

On her list: TVs, PlayStations and Xboxes.

Bishop is among thousands of valley shoppers out Thursday night to guarantee a good spot in line for when the stores opened their doors and let the bargain shoppers swarm the aisles.

About 34 percent of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, up from 31 percent last year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, and 16 percent had planned to shop on Thanksgiving Day. For the weekend, 152 million people nationwide are expected shop, up from 138 million last year.

Many stores in Las Vegas, like Old Navy, Walmart and Toys R Us, actually opened or remained opened on Thanksgiving Day, a growing trend, said Old Navy District Manager Peter Lythgoe.

“People wait for this weekend to do shopping. They love the great deals but don’t want to stay up,” Lythgoe said.

This is the third year Old Navy has opened on Thanksgiving Day — from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., only to reopen at midnight for the Black Friday door-buster sales. From then, the store will stay open another 23 hours, until 11 p.m. Friday, a feat that requires three separate work shifts.

“We’ve hired over 200 people in our five Las Vegas stores specifically just for the holidays and this weekend,” Lythgoe said.

Black Friday is important to merchants because it kicks off the holiday shopping season, a time when stores can make 25 to 40 percent of their annual revenue. It’s expected shoppers will spend nearly $500 billion during the holiday shopping season, or about 3 percent more than they did last year.

Whether those projections would play out in the Las Vegas Valley remained to be seen. On Friday afternoon the Game Stop at 619 North Stephanie Rd in Henderson. was seeing what store manager Stefan Alsheskie said is the usual Black Friday turnout. “Compared to last year we’re pretty even,” said Alsheskie. “It’s a possibly that I’ll hit (the sales quota) I hit last year and maybe more but not by much.”

Special deals and shopper incentives are an important part of the night, said Janet Lafevre, group marketing manager with General Growth Properties, the company that owns Meadows Mall, Fashion Show Mall and The Shops at The Palazzo.

“About 36 stores at Meadows Mall have midnight openings,” said Lafevre, the most the mall has ever had. Some stores offer early shoppers gift card ranging from $10 to $100 in value.

“We’re responding to the consumer demand,” Lafevre said. “It really works for retailers and customers.”

With big sales come big crowds, like at the Walmart on Marks Street in Henderson. The retail giant, open 24 hours, allowed customers to wait in the store for video games, DVDs and other electronics that didn’t go on sale until 10 p.m. and midnight.

As hundreds crowded around coveted Wii and PlayStation games, employees kept a careful watch. Caution tape surrounded the freezer aisle, which for the night housed the LCD TVs. Other employees stood guard at the emergency exits.

Shopper Despina Lablanc said she counts on the big sales to buy her children Christmas presents.

“Prices are going up on everything,” said Lablanc, who planned to buy video games for her niece and 10-year-old son.

Tim Smeltzer, who was waiting for the video game releases, said the items went on sale 20 minutes early, “which caused a free-for-all. There were people screaming because they were almost getting trampled. It was so ridiculous.”

But that’s what veteran Black Friday shopper Sasha Franchey loves about it — the rush, the excitement.

“I think it’s fun,” Franchey said. “I like the adrenaline rushing through and getting what I want to get.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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