Larry Johnson, left, shops for bargains with his grandson Jabari Robertson, 5, on Black Friday in Albany.
ALBANY — Health gurus recommend taking a long walk after the traditional Turkey Day feast.
They don't say the walk has to be relaxing. So scarf down the remainder of your dressing and put the ham on hold. It's time to save some money.
Responding to a less-than-perfect economy as well as to online competition, "brick and mortar" retailers pulled out the stops on sales and welcomed their customers earlier.
"Pretty soon it's gonna be Black Wednesday," said Guy Outlaw, as he waited at the Target store on Dawson Road to purchase his new TV. It was barely 10 p.m. on Thursday and Target had been open for an hour. "Originally, we went to Wal-Mart. I think they were giving away gold, there were so many people there. I ain't built for this, man. It really isn't worth it."
There seems a sense of determination by the nation's retailers to open earlier than ever. Stores from Toys R Us to Sears, and many shops at the Albany Mall were open earlier than last year — some as early as 8 p.m. on Thursday. Others, like the Albany Wal-Mart stores, never closed. Wal-Mart is already reporting its best Black Friday ever, bringing 22 million customers to its stores on Thursday and selling almost 5,000 items per second.
So how were the lines in Southwest Georgia?
Brutal seemed to fit. At the Wal-Mart on Ledo Road, parking was nearly non-existent and lines backed up to Jo-Ann Fabrics from Toys R Us near Albany Mall.
What The New York Post called "hordes of crazed shoppers" brawled over discounted cell phones at the Moultrie Wal-Mart. Yet, locally and across the nation was a kind of easy-going feeling about the earlier hours.
"It's a lot less hectic this way. A lot easier," said Dominique Callen, as she waited to shop at the Albany Toys R Us. People are ready to fight when it's too crowded. It's great for people who still have to work tomorrow, also."
Security personnel and law enforcement generally agreed, preferring the more diffused, lengthy hours for keeping order and eyeing potential shoplifters.
Pauleen and Jesse Akers, Sylvester newlyweds, spent most of their evening waiting to score a laptop computer.
"I stood in line for four hours," Pauleen Akers said, "and I sure enough got it, too. I'm not one to use swear words, but I would have if they'd run out."
While it seems incredible, a few Black Friday shoppers seemed not only to persevere but to thrive. Cathy McDaniel, now living in Swainsboro, returned to Albany especially to shop with a life-long friend. They wore special t-shirts declaring themselves "Black Friday Professionals."
"Our husbands are at home watching football," McDaniel said. "Mine said he'd have to get paid to come out here. We'll probably do this till around 1 p.m, go home and take nap, then we'll come back around 4 p.m."
Some folks don't care about the bargains.
In the heart of the Target store, Whitney Newman reminded her kids they were only there to look.
"I just love to people watch," Newman said. "It's just a lot of fun. We went to Wal-Mart last year and watched all the people standing in line. We stood in line at Toys R Us so we could watch how long the lines were and all that."
According to Newman, most of her holiday shopping had been completed.