Shoppers get an early start on their Christmas shopping

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Analysts are predicting that holiday sales will tumble by as much as eight percent this year. Yet we saw countless numbers of south Mississippians dashing in and out of stores Friday morning. And many of them were carrying bags filled with holiday goodies.

The economy may be struggling. But at least on this Black Friday, nobody seemed to care.

Pat Muhs was one of a dozen Louisiana women who couldn't wait to start Christmas shopping. "We came from Metairie," she said, "to get all the bargains in Gulfport." What Pat Muhs didn't tell you is that her group came here at midnight. The Metairie ladies and hundreds of pajama wearing shoppers were all at Prime Outlets to take advantage of deep discounts on holiday merchandise.

Sandra Barnett manages one of the stores at the Creosote Road shopping complex. "The whole entire store tonight is 50-70% off," Barnett said.

The second year of midnight madness produced the kind of Black Friday sales that made staying up all night quite rewarding. Phillip Schmidt and a couple of his pals showed up at midnight to "spend money cheap. Get cheaper clothes, good clothes at cheaper prices."

The midnight sales were quite an attraction. According to Barnett, "This is the day we've been waiting for all year. This is phenomenal."

Up the street, Best Buy waited until 5:00 am to open. "Everything has been very smooth," store manager Steve Moses said. "People are leaving happy, like the new store. I think we'll exceed all of our expectations that we have." He thought the later start gave shoppers the spark they needed to buy now, and browse later.

A woman from southern Illinois was at the electronics store with her son. He was trying out a Guitar Hero game.  She said they shopped in Gulfport on the day after Thanksgiving because "all the good stuff would be gone by the time we got home."

TV deals had one woman's interest. He purchased a digital flat screen for just $399. "Yes, the economy is rough, but it's a good deal. Gotta get it when you can I guess," she said.

DVD's at discount prices piqued another girl's curiosity. She showed up at Best Buy after a friend got off work. "We decided to come for it. Why not? Live on the wild side," she laughed.

"I hate to say I don't buy into the economy thing, but it's Christmas time," Moses said. "People are going to buy gifts for their children." Retailers like Moses have just four weeks to convince shoppers that buying gifts, even in a weak economy, will make this a happier holiday season for everyone.