- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

Throngs of Christmas shoppers and bargain hunters are descending on the malls and department stores today as retailers hope post-Thanksgiving sales kick off a holiday shopping spree to boost the economic recovery.
Washingtonians put aside doubts about job security and a potential war with Iraq yesterday as they counted their cash and prepared for "Black Friday" one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The day after Thanksgiving is known in the retail industry as "Black Friday" because it's the day retailers watch their balance sheets move out of the red and into the black.
"We are going to hit Pentagon City bright and early and work our way back into the city," Ian Tuttle said yesterday as he fingered through a bundle of sales fliers. "We just pulled out the ads, threw away the ones we didn't need, and now we are ready to roll."
The 25-year-old Georgetown University graduate student thought better of his plan to rent a car for the shopping tour. "That was a bit too much," he said.
Mr. Tuttle was planning his shopping strategy with Tristan Gorrindo, a college friend and Vanderbilt University medical student visiting for the holiday break.
Mr. Gorrindo was not as enthusiastic as Mr. Tuttle about the prospect of a daylong shopping spree, but he was in for the duration. "I'm more along for the ride," he said. "I am an enabler."
He nevertheless expected to spend about $200 today, the same amount Mr. Tuttle gave as a conservative spending estimate.
That kind of freewheeling with pocketbooks partly aided by last year's tax cut helped consumer confidence rebound this month and increased consumer spending in October at the fastest rate in three months. And consumers were further buoyed by news that claims for unemployment benefits fell to a 21-month low last week.
Like countless others this morning, Julia H. Jones is hitting the stores by 6 a.m. to beat the rush.
Mrs. Jones contemplated her shopping plans yesterday as she and her church group served a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street in Southeast.
"I'd like to get in and out before the big crowds," she said.
Unfortunately for Mrs. Jones, there's a big crowd of confident consumers with cash in hand who have the same idea. Many stores are counting on an early-morning rush of bargain hunters.
Stores opening before sunrise include Kmart, which throws open its doors at 5 a.m. for shoppers to score such bargains as 25 percent off Barbie dolls. Also opening at 5 a.m. is KB Toys, which is selling Game Boy Advance Systems for $45 if you spend $100 on other toys.
By 6 a.m., Wal-Mart, Kohl's, Macy's, Toys R Us, Best Buy and J.C. Penney joined the fray, followed an hour later by Lord & Taylor, and Hecht's, where the first 300 shoppers get a gift card worth $15.
At White Flint Mall in Bethesda, security crews yesterday had plans to manage the onslaught of shoppers expected when the doors open at 8 a.m. today. Most of the effort was focused on increasing the number of spaces in the parking lot the setting of many holiday-shopping nightmares.
"Be patient" was the advice offered by one of the security guards. By noon, every mall parking lot will probably look like the Beltway at rush hour.
AAA Mid-Atlantic offered the same tip: Shoppers, be prepared for parking-lot gridlock. Instead of searching for that elusive spot near the door, the automobile association suggests taking one in the back of the lot and walk off some Thanksgiving calories.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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