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Black Friday shoppers fill local stores

Lines at the checkouts were a common sight Friday in the stores at the Kandi Mall in Willmar. Reports nationally showed that shoppers were out in force, though they were somewhat cautious in their spending and stuck to their lists. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- If Rip Van Winkle awakened from his long slumber on the morning of Black Friday to go shopping in Willmar, he would have thought there was no economic recession and retail groups were not predicting a challenging holiday season.

Shoppers were lined up at the door when the Herberger's store in the Kandi Mall opened the doors at 4 a.m., according to store manager Gordy Lindblad.

"It's been wild," he said later in the morning. "We are up over last year."

The store opened an hour earlier than last year and was one of the earliest in town. One of the leading sale items was comforters. The store sold about 70 cases of them in 40 minutes, Lindblad said.

Shoppers didn't just come for the earliest of the early morning bargains, as the Kandi Mall parking lot was full into the midday hours.

Down First Street at Best Buy, about 250 people were waiting to purchase televisions, computers and global positioning systems, according to Tracy Hanson, the Willmar store's general manager.

The line of people waiting outside the store began forming around noon Thursday, Hanson said.

That included two tents and a fish house.

"Eight guys stayed in a fish house," Hanson said, adding that there's a group of shoppers who have made it a tradition to be first in line for the Black Friday opening. "The first in line were those 10 people," she said, adding that the group has been first to get at the holiday deals for each of the three years Best Buy has had a store in Willmar.

Later in the morning, customers flowed in and out of the store and employees were busy assisting them and hauling merchandise. Attitudes were positive, for both shoppers and the store.

"Customers are in a great mood," Hanson said. "We've got some competitive pricing this year."

The busy shopping day, at least in the sheer number of shoppers, appears to run counter to forecasts by the National Retail Federation that holiday sales would rise 2.2 percent this year nationally. That would fall well below the 10-year average of 4.4 percent of holiday sales growth and would be the least growth since 2002, when sales grew just 1.3 percent.

The federation's research predicts that the average adult will spend $832.36 this season. The spending includes gifts for family, friends, co-workers and other gifts, along with decorations, greeting cards, food and candy and flowers and potted plants. The greater portion of the spending, $630, is planned for gifts, including $466 for family gifts. Men's wallets were predicted to open wider than the ladies' purses, with the guys spending $911.59 and women doling out $757.32.