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Black Friday update: Crowds fill stores like Kohl's, Best Buy, Old Navy, Toys "R" Us; by mid-afternoon, traffic slowed at locally-owned stores

Braving the Black Friday sales? Click on the links at the side of this page for reminders of deals going on at some popular retailers.

Then, check ledger-enquirer.com throughout the day for updates on the local shopping scene. We started visiting stores at 2 a.m. Here's what we found:

***At 2 a.m. this morning, a line had already curved around the Best Buy store on Manchester Expressway. Covered in sleeping bags and blankets, shoppers still had three hours before the store opened. The crowd consisted of an estimated 150 people.

Many came to snag specials on electronics. Among those: Scott Gleason, 34, of Columbus. He and his group arrived at the store around 3:45 p.m. Thursday. Like many shoppers, he skipped a formal Thanksgiving dinner in the name of getting a good deal.

His item of choice? A laptop. He estimated he'll get about 90 percent of his shopping done today, taking advantage of Black Friday discounts partially because of the shaky economy.

"This year's Christmas gifts are a lot cheaper than last year's," he said, referring to the amount of money he plans to spend this holiday season.

Gleason had about seven people in front of him. He heard the people at the front of the line arrived between 10 and 11 a.m. Thursday. Aside from being a little cold, the shoppers seemed happy.

"I've seen more hostile crowds (in the past)," Gleason said.

While Gleason prepared to shop with a purpose, other people in line showed up simply for the experience.

"It's just fun. I don't even have any shopping to do," said Lee Joyner, 23, of Columbus. This is about his fifth year as an early morning shopper, and he arrived at Best Buy between 8 and 9 p.m. Thursday.

At 2 a.m., he was near the middle of the pack. He admitted, "The good laptops and computers will all be gone by the time it gets to us." Members of Best Buy's staff were slated to give out tickets for the store's doorbuster specials two hours before the store's opening.

Even though he wasn't at the front of the line, Joyner seemed to enjoy the experience, playing a game with fellow shoppers as he waited to go inside the store.

-Sonya Sorich

***

Old Navy in Columbus Park Crossing opened at 3 a.m. today. Around 3:30 a.m., a line of about 60 people still waited outside.

Why? The popular clothing retailer was already at capacity. A security guard outside couldn't tell us exactly how many people were inside, but the line circled through the store and stretched around the front aisles.

Outside, shoppers braved the cold. Some questioned whether stopping at the store would be worthwhile. When asked how much shopping she planned to do Friday, Lindsey Wallis was hesitant while waiting in the line.

"Hopefully very little, so I can get out of the cold," said Wallis, 24, who lives in Columbus.

When we circled around the store again at 4:30 a.m., Old Navy was still at capacity with a line outside. People were allowed to enter as others exited.

-Sonya Sorich

***

Across the street at Kohl's, shoppers didn't need to be as patient. The store opened at 4 a.m., and a line formed as the magic hour approached.

Brittney Espersen, 29, of Columbus stood with the shoppers outside. She was joined by some family members -- Black Friday shopping is a tradition for them. This year, she started at 3 a.m. at Toys "R" Us, which opened at midnight.

Espersen's Toys "R" Us trip didn't go too well, though. "There were two-hour lines," she said.

But Espersen was still smiling while waiting to enter Kohl's, where she said she was mainly looking for children's toys. She emphasized Black Friday isn't just about good prices.

"It just gets you in the holiday spirit," she said of her shopping tradition.

Kohl's opened at 4 a.m. Everyone was allowed in. By 4:02 a.m., a line had already formed at the registers near the front of the store.

-Sonya Sorich

***

Slowly but surely, cars filled the parking lot at Peachtree Mall just before 5 a.m. The main mall didn't open until 6, but stores like Macy's opened their doors an hour early.

Small clusters of shoppers crowded near the doors at Macy's as 5 a.m. approached. Plenty of parking spaces were available as the doors opened.

A steady crowd of shoppers perused the racks at Macy's, and a loudspeaker reminded shoppers that the main mall wasn't yet open.

Around 5:45 a.m., cars continued to fill the mall's parking lot. Spaces remained, but that's likely to be rare throughout the rest of today.

-Sonya Sorich

***

By mid-afternoon, there was just a trickle of shoppers haunting the aisles of locally-owned stores.

Around 1 p.m., the sales associates outnumbered shoppers at Kinnucan's in the Landings.

"We didn't wake up too early," said Katey Robinson, 17, of Greenwood, S.C., who was visiting relatives this weekend. "The sales here are pretty good. We've been out since around 10 a.m. We'll probably go home around 4 p.m."

Robinson said last year, she and her family were out in stores at 7 a.m. and home around 7 p.m.

The only other placed she and her family had been Friday was PeachtreeMall.

Alice Taylorson of Seale, said Kinnucan's was her first stop on her shopping trip this year.

"I used to work at Wal-mart," she said. "There is nothing out there that is worth fighting that craziness."

Their children had pored over Thursday's newspaper circulars and picked out what they wanted, said her husband, Jim. And that's how they ended up at Kinnucan's, an outdoor store that sells apparel, shoes and equipment.

- Sandra Okamoto

***

Down the strip at the Landings, Chandler Hodge, 14, a freshman at Northside High School, was looking for a pair of Georgia Boot brand boots, at Kim's Boots & Things.

There were a pair of the Wellington Pull-ons in his size, but he left empty-handed.

- Sandra Okamoto

***

So Romantic store owner Paul Headley was by himself in the store around 2 p.m.

In business just six months, he was expecting more of a turn-out today.

"I guess they all went to the bigger chain stores," he said. Headley sells casual and dressy women's clothing.

- Sandra Okamoto

***

Paige Janke, 19, a freshman at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and Ann Wilson, 18, a freshman at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., were shopping with their mothers at the Blue Door Boutique on Rollins Way in the Bradley Park Drive shopping area.

Janke said the shop was one of the first stops, but wasn't sure where she'd go next.

"I haven't planned it out too well," she said.

Janke was looking for formal dresses to wear for Christmas parties.

She and Wilson have been friends since high school, and Wilson bought five pairs of shoes -- heels and boots -- at Pursona, the shop next door to the Blue Door.

"We've been out since like 11 a.m.," Wilson said. "I slept in. I have to get sleep."

She, too, was looking for dresses to wear for formal affairs at school.

- Sandra Okamoto

***

Around 2:30 p.m., Brooke and Paul Rickard of Midland, were in the Kiddie Shoppe, across Rollins Way from the Blue Door Boutique.

Brooke had left her house so she could be at Kohl's around 7:30 a.m. Her husband and the children, Mason, 4, and Molly, 2, slept in and then had a late breakfast before joining her at the Kiddie Shoppe.

She opted for the later hour because she said getting out at 4 a.m. "wasn't happening."

The best purchases came from Kohl's, she said. After that, she went to Target, Wal-mart, Toys "R" Us and Main Street Toy Shop. At the giant national toy store chain, she saw the huge lines of customers and walked in and was out the door.

Because it's easier to shop with her "assistants," she's glad her husband is willing to watch the children.

"Daddy understands his elf status," he said with a laugh.

On their way home, they plan a stop at the Tractor Supply Co. on Flat Rock Court. Paul says he understands the store has old-fashioned toys that Mason might like.

- Sandra Okamoto

***

Oliva Bolton of Newnan was also in the Kiddie Shoppe with her two sons, Jackson, 6, and Levi, 3.

She, too, got a late start.

"I actually just got started," she said, as Jackson tried on Geox shoes. "This is my first stop. Next is Dick's Sporting Goods and then I'm going home."

- Sandra Okamoto

***

Around 4:30 p.m., there was a small, but steady stream of customers walking into K-Rawk's Closet and Bougie Boutique on Broadway and 11th Street.

Lauren Hinman, a Columbus State University communications major, said at 3 a.m., Starbuck's was packed. She was studying, so she wasn't really paying attention to the number of people in the coffee shop.

"I looked up, and said, 'What's going on?' Someone said it was Black Friday. I totally forgot."

After shopping at the contemporary women's clothing boutique, she said she was going home and taking a bath and relaxing the rest of the evening.

Cameron Johnson, 17, a junior at Monroe High School in Albany, was just following his older sister around.

"I just out out," he said. "I don't know where we're going next. It's up to her."

Sisters Tricia and Beth Latimer were looking around the store. They had been in the Blue Door earlier in the afternoon.

They had also been in Pursona and Peachtree Mall. Tricia reported that the mall wasn't as busy as in past years.

And they got a late start; around 1 p.m. K-Rawk was their last stop before stopping somewhere to catch the last of the Auburn-Alabama game.

Beth lives in Atlanta and says shopping in Columbus is much less expensive that in Atlanta.

"I was just in the mood to spend some money," she said, laughing when her sister said their father won't be too happy to hear that. "People always ask me why I come to Columbus to shop. I tell them the clothes are just as cute and cheaper."

She bought a pair of jeans, two pairs of shoes and an orange coat.

"I didn't spend that much," Beth said. "I'd probably would have spent almost twice as much in Atlanta for the same things."

- Sandra Okamoto

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