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Crowds scramble for deals

Shoppers were out before dawn in the U.S. for fun and for deals, as retailers that have had a tough year were hoping to bring customers to their stores and websites for Black Friday.

Black Friday has morphed from a single day when people got up early to score doorbusters into a whole season of deals, so shoppers may feel less need to be out. Some love the excitement, even if they've already done some of their shopping online.

Friends Yeshica Jeffers and Stacey Rhodes-Sofer hit a Walmart in suburban Albany, N.Y., early Friday.

"We always do it. It's a tradition," said Jeffers. "It's fun. It used to be a lot more fun before stores started opening on Thanksgiving."

Rhodes-Sofer said she was buying cosmetics for her 20-year-old daughter and books for her goddaughters. Also on the shopping list: kitchen gadgets and fishing gear for her husband.

At a nearby shopping plaza, four women were loading purchases from a Dick's Sporting Goods into the back of an SUV. Meg Noonan said it was the third Black Friday she has joined three friends for pre-dawn shopping.

"Honestly, it's fun to do it with friends while the kids are sleeping," Noonan said.

With the jobless rate at a 17-year-low of 4.1 per cent and consumer confidence stronger than a year ago, analysts project healthy sales increases for November and December. 

About 69 per cent of Americans, or 164 million people, intend to shop at some point during the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to a survey released by the NRF. It expects Black Friday to remain the busiest day, with about 115 million people planning to shop today.



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