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Wee Hour Sales Bring Out Bargain Hunters

Even though their sport utility vehicle was loaded down with holiday gifts on "Black Friday," the so-called busiest shopping day of the year, Burke residents Bob and Ruby Dizon tried to fill every square inch. No matter how hard they tried, the computer printer would not fit.

"I'll have to ride with this on my lap," Ruby Dizon said. She arrived at the Burke Wal-Mart at 8 a.m. Because there were too many cars, she left and returned at 10 a.m.

"It was more crowded at 8 o'clock," Ruby Dizon said.

Springfield residents Susan Grayke and Patsy Campbell started their shopping in Springfield but ended up at the Burke Wal-Mart. For Grayke, shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving (i.e., Black Friday) has become a tradition.

"I've come every year, but I'm finding this year the craziest," she said. "I'm not done yet. We're heading for Bed and Bath."

Armed with positive economic reports, retailers are hoping this holiday season's shopping dollars will improve a shaky retail year. Some used an early morning sale to entice shoppers. Phil Kauffman of Burke isn't a Black Friday regular, but a sale that started at 6 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m. caught his attention.

"They sent out a flyer this week. I usually avoid it like the plague," he said.

"Black Friday" is a term in the economic world that describes the day when retailers go from being in the red, not making a profit, to the black, or being profitable. Before computers, the accountants used a red pen to indicate loss and a black pen for profit.

Holiday sales could make or break some retailers. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a section of the U.S. Department of Commerce, sales were up in the third quarter of 2003 and continue to look good. In the third quarter of 2003, gross domestic product was up 8.2 percent compared with the second quarter, when it rose only 3.3 percent.

Wal-Mart reported record, single-day sales on Friday of more than $1.52 billion at the company's domestic Wal-Mart, Supercenters and Neighborhood Market stores, which was up from the year before, when sales were $1.43 billion, according to Wal-Mart corporate information.

At Springfield Mall, the anchor stores — Target, J.C. Penney and Macy's — opened early, but the other stores weren't required to be open until 8 a.m., according to assistant marketing director Latisha Click. Some opened early anyway, and Click said Kay Bee Toys opened at 5 a.m. Katie Kroll works at Macy's in Springfield Mall. The management there had the staff ready for the Black Friday onslaught.

"We expected it to be really busy," Kroll said. "People were at the door at 5:30 [a.m.], to be there when the doors opened at 6."

Burke resident Bob Dizon has already noticed an increase in spending over last year.

"I know we're buying more than last year," Dizon said.