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Black Friday kicked off holiday shopping season around the state

The year’s busiest retail season was kicked off with a bang Thanksgiving weekend, according to some shopping centers around the state. Extended shopping hours, discounts and prizes lured customers to spend for the upcoming holidays.

Sales figures from a sample of stores at Turtle Creek Mall in Hattiesburg are up slightly from the same weekend last year. “It’s what we expected, and we’re glad to see any increase,” said Andrea Saffle, marketing director. “Sales were down last year because we were still in the post-Katrina mode.”

Earliest opening ever

Some shoppers slept outside the mall, waiting to get in for the 5 a.m. opening the Friday after Thanksgiving. Saffle said that’s the earliest the mall has ever opened. All of the department stores ran specials with Belk’s distributing gift cards ranging in value from $25 to $500 to the first 250 people entering the store. The first 300 shoppers entering the mall received a number entering them in a drawing for a $1,000 gift card from the mall.

“The mall was packed; we had a great turnout. The cool weather gets people in the mood to shop,” Saffle said. “We saw that shoppers are out looking for good deals, and we think the price of gas is definitely having an impact.”

She advises consumers to shop early in the day and in the week to avoid long lines, and to go armed with an idea of what they will buy.

An aggressive start

Prime Outlets in Gulfport opened at midnight on Black Friday to a huge crowd with parking spilling over into areas adjacent to the shopping center. It was the facility’s first time to try the aggressive opening time. One retailer, Aeropostle, even opened before midnight because lines of shoppers were waiting outside to take advantage of 50% off on everything in the store.

“It was very good and stores did well,” said Rhonda Roberts, marketing manager. “I think people liked staying up late instead of getting up early to shop. We had a pajama jam with a prize wheel and special coupons. One group of women came in an RV from Baton Rouge. It was just a fun event, and we’re very pleased with the way it went.”

Roberts said a number of tenants at Prime Outlets made their sales goals and are expecting a good season.

The Mall at Barnes Crossing in Tupelo had a great, great weekend, according to marketing director Cindy Childs. And that’s with two areas of the parking lot fenced off due to a building project underway at the mall.

Big weekend

“We were concerned about that, but we’re so excited about the weekend we had,” she said. “Some stores, including a shoe store and a local retailer, had their biggest weekend ever. Several other stores were number one and number two for sales in their districts.”

The earliest opener was JCPenney at 4 a.m. with others following. Saturday and Sunday — usually not as good as Black Friday — had good traffic, too.

“Stores that had incentives got the shoppers out,” Childs said. “Apparel sales were really good. This may be more of a necessity-giving Christmas rather than things such as electronics. We’re very hopeful of a good season.”

The Tupelo mall has 95 tenants and will debut a Dick’s Sporting Goods and a Barnes & Noble Bookstore next spring.

The first weekend of the holiday shopping season was also big at Dogwood Festival Shopping Center in Flowood where stores opened early.

“The whole weekend was busy although the rain cut into the crowd on Sunday,” Teresa Kemp, administrative assistant, said. “We had lines, crowds and lots of traffic — good things.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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