By Olga Pena

Killeen Daily Herald

The sun was not up and birds were not yet chirping, but savings-savvy consumers were out in full force as department stores across Central Texas opened their doors to Black Friday shoppers.

Early-bird shoppers showed up in droves as stores began ringing up drastically price-slashed products before the break of dawn. The official kickoff to the holiday shopping season was under way.

We dont mess around, said Ginger Witte, who began her shopping spree along with her daughter about 3 a.m. Were on a mission.

Grabbing shopping carts as they talked, Witte and her daughter Jen-nifer Byse said they have been early risers for Black Fri-day sales for nine years. They now call it a tradition with Witte flying in from wherever she may be to join her daughter this year it was Atlanta, Ga.

Their tactical approach to Christmas shopping includes carefully choosing items from ads, getting their childrens and grandchildrens wish lists and then tag-teaming the stores as one grabs the toys and the other stands in the cashier line.

By 6 a.m., Byse and Witte had visited Toys-R-Us, Circuit City, Wal-Mart and were on their way to Target.

You cant beat it (sale prices), plus its fun, said Byse, whose pregnancy did not deter her shopping plan. Its less about sales and more about watching people go nuts.

The shopping frenzy is commonly known nationwide as Black Friday nicknamed for the shift to profitability during the holiday season when retailers typically go from being unprofitable, or in the red, to being profitable, or in the black. It is traditiomally one of th biggest shopping days of the year.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated shoppers spent $22.8 billion the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2004 and a projected increase of 6.0 percent is expected this year.

Julie Soto was all smiles as she clutched her new flat-screen television she purchased at $142 off of the regular price.

She beamed about a new found friend even more than the TV.

Soto said she owed her great purchase to Jessica Norris, whom she met about 5 a.m.

She stood in line for me, Soto said, citing her late start after sleeping through her alarm clock. She is such a sweetheart.

Though cashier lines were long at Target, laughter was continually heard as many consumers swapped sales stories and helped one another locate their next big buy.

With energetic consumers swarming around him, Killeen Target manager Chris Hinckley said operations were running pretty smoothly.

Hinckley said when he arrived at 4 a.m., a line of shoppers wrapped around the building, even though the doors did not open until 6 a.m.

They are just looking for the good deals, Hinckley said.

Kevin and Connie Detlefsen started their Christmas trek about 5:45 a.m. but careful planning for smart shopping began the night before as they surveyed countless ads and pre-selected toys for their five children.

One store down, at Toys-R-Us, Lorraine Slaughter stood in line with an overflowing cart brimming with toys for her three grandchildren.

They got what they wanted, Slaughter said, adding her Christmas shopping was almost done. We got some good sales.

At Best Buy, employees dressed in blue resembled an army as they carefully took positions all over the store helping to maintain order and good customer service for hordes of shoppers.

When customer service supervisor Serena Clark arrived at 3:30 a.m., the line of consumers, she said, extended past Shoe Carnival.

Its been busy, more than what I expected it to be, Clark said, adding that all employees were scheduled to work today in order to ensure smooth operations.

In recent years, the count-down days before Christmas have brought in more sales than black Friday as last-minute shoppers make their mad dashes more profitable then those of the early-birds.

Holiday sales will continue Saturday and Sunday with continued early-bird specials, one day sale fliers available at stores, instant rebates and many other incentives helping to persuade shoppers to get their Christmas shopping done in one weekend.

One-fifth of retail industry sales, about 19.9 percent, occur during the holiday season, making it the most important time period of the year for the retail industry.

Contact Olga Peña at


According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), total holiday retail sales are expected to increase 6.0 percent over last year, bringing holiday spending to $439.5 billion. In comparison, holiday sales in 2004 rose 6.7 percent to $414.7 billion.

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