Black Friday rush starts early in metro Atlanta

Shoppers actually kicked off Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year, Thursday.

But don’t worry if you couldn’t make it out on Thanksgiving Day. The deals, lines and, unfortunately, traffic will continue today.

Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys R Us and Walmart joined other stores throughout metro Atlanta who started Black Friday deals at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

Lenox Square opened 6 p.m. Thursday then closed at 1 a.m. Friday and reopened at 6 a.m. Some retailers stayed open overnight.

Carol Cox, a Lenox Square spokeswoman, said Lenox Square was “definitely the place to be” Thursday, with crowds thickening between 8 and 10 p.m.

Shoppers passed the square’s new 26-foot illuminated buck head between the Cheesecake Factory restaurant and Macy’s then trickled into stores Friday morning.

“Everything has been fantastic,” Cox said. “Once again we’re seeing families, and we are a part of their annual shopping traditions.”

The early start to Black Friday meant many metro shoppers began camping out Wednesday.

Tae Chun, who was first in line at the Best Buy in Duluth, told Channel 2 Action News he set up his tent at 3 p.m. Wednesday hoping to get video games.

“I was actually first last year, too,” he said. “I’ll be here 26 hours by the time they open.”

The store started letting people inside, Chun included, in groups of 50 Thursday.

One shopper Hanna McGowin, told Channel 2 she wishes stores would go back to starting deals on Friday.

“However, I’m OK with people protesting it being on Thanksgiving,” she said. “It just gives me a better chance of getting what I want.”

Marcus Buckler, a Best Buy manager in Gwinnett County, told Channel 2 he started prepping two hours before doors open and his process included handing out tickets for big items such as flat screen T

Vs to “ensure there’s not a big rush of customers trying to grab products.”

“It keeps it very organized,” he said.

By 6 a.m. Friday barricades were still up, but a line that once wrapped around the corner was down to two people, Channel 2 reported.

The Duluth Best Buy wasa to open at 8 a.m., and one hour earlier the crowd only had about a dozen people.

Just to the west, a smaller store attracted a larger crowd in Cobb County.

At a boutique in Marietta, shoppers — some of whom had waited outside in tents — rushed through the doors of Lizard Thicket on Merchant’s Walk.

The store, which opened at 6 a.m., offered freebies for the first 100 people to enter, Channel 2 reported.

Still, traffic at metro Atlanta stores and malls was light early Friday. It’s expected to pick up later in the morning, according to the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center.

Cars started to fill mall parking lots early, but malls were far from full.

Lenox Square was 15 percent full by 5:30 a.m., Channel 2 reported.

Town Center in Kennesaw was between 25 and 30 percent full, and Sugarloaf Mills in Lawrenceville was 10 percent full.

Many metro Atlanta store managers said store policies prevent them from giving Black Friday sales projections, and it’s difficult to project Black Friday sales revenue anyway.

Melissa Goff, a Macy’s spokeswoman, said even without knowing what revenue will be, “we are confident that we are offering holiday gifts with exceptional value.”

“The holiday season is our most important time of the year,” she said.

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