Amy Williams

After the turkey, sweet potato pie and string bring casserole, Ameera Koonce geared up for another kind of feast – shopping.

Bundled in layers of clothes to stay warm, Koonce waited in line for two hours to get first pick at Best Buy’s door-buster deals, and she wasn’t alone. By 4 a.m., about 175 people lined up along the building eagerly waiting for the store to open.

“I really did not want to miss the really good sales,” Koonce said. “Only once a year are the manufacturers willing to knock so much off of their prices. So I don’t mind getting up early.”

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving ritual that kicks off the official Christmas shopping season. According to the ShopperTrak RCT Corporation’s National Retail Sales Estimate (NRSE), Black Friday sales totaled $10.3 billion, an 8.3 percent increase from last year.

Like Koonce, many consumers took advantage of the early and extended hours. The NRSE reported that early morning openings typically boost Black Friday sales figures. The early sales, ranging from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m., account for 4.5 percent to 5 percent of all holiday sales. Once the doors opened, consumers rushed inside stores. For crowd control, some large retailers only allowed a certain number of customers in at a time. For more popular items, stores also gave out vouchers while customers waited in line. “Unfortunately, I walked to the electronics section where I was informed that they gave tickets to 20 people [at a time] for the laptop,” Koonce said. “It was very organized. The store was neat and the clerks were very polite. The police officers who were outside were polite also.” This season’s most popular items were found in the electronic and toy sections. Popular picks included 19-inch flat screen televisions, which originally sold for at least $1,000, on sale for as low as $230.

NRSE reported that the 2007 holiday retail season “got off to a very strong start” despite the recent hike in gas prices and other issues plaguing the economy.

“We anticipated that the 2007 trend would continue and consumers would be willing to spend despite all of the economic pressures we’ve been hearing about heading into the season,” Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said in a press release. “Although retailers need to remain cautious, the Black Friday outpouring should have them breathing a sigh of relief, and they will be paying close attention to see if consumers continue this strong shopping pace throughout the holiday season.”