Americans to open wallets a bit for Black Friday

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In Charleston, W.Va., Debbie Winfree Cooley , 49, said adults in her family are drawing names to limit spending and will focus on presents for the children young enough to expect a visit from Santa.

“We all like to keep the spirit of Christmas by keeping Santa real. When [children] get bigger, the quantity of toys gets smaller until they reach 18 and are considered adults and put into our pool,” she said of the family gift-giving strategy.

As for the adults: “We all enjoy our time together, especially since we are all spread out among the states. Food, music and spirits become our Christmas with the little kids still having that magical feeling.”

With the famed Black Friday shopping marathon looming, forecasters offer less-than-hopeful news. Rain and possibly snow are forecast for the East, with meteorologists warning of a “miserable night” for Black Friday campers getting in place for the best early a.m. deals. Not that they will be deterred.

LaToya Drake, AOL’s consumer adviser, said the deals are so good this year that many won’t mind rising at 4 a.m. and stepping out in the bitter cold and possible precipitation.

“I think you will see a lot of foot traffic and also a lot of people going online,” she said of the outlook.

On the local front, more people will be supporting small businesses, which typically aren’t top of mind on Black Friday. American Express, she added, is hoping to spur business by offering its customers $25 if they frequent a local business next Saturday.

“Small businesses, they don’t have the money to give you those big deals,” Ms. Drake said. “But American Express will put a little money in your pocket if you do.”

Of the biggest deals, Ms. Drake said Wal-Mart will offer a $99 e-reader on Black Friday and many retailers will offer huge discounts on outerwear. After one of the warmest Octobers in history, their inventories are huge and they need to move coats to make way for spring merchandise.

The most coveted adult electronic gift is Apple’s iPad, but no one toy has emerged for 2010 as the must-have for children, she said.

Among the top toys are a singing Justin Bieber doll, Squinkies ($10 collectibles) Paper Jamz (cardboard guitars), and video Barbie, a doll with an actual video camera inside.

While Ms. Drake said she can’t predict consumer behavior across America, she thinks many people are tired of hearing bad stories about the economy and ready for better days.

“Deals have never gone out of style,” she said of holiday purchases. “I think people are tired of not treating themselves to a little something special. They may have said ‘I can’t get that Kindle last year, but I’m going to take a chance and get it this year.’”

Victor Morton contributed to this report.

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