US Shoppers Return to Stores, Some in Pajamas

Friday US s hoppers crowded stores and malls . S ome of them had spen t the night waiting in line, to grab early morning deals and hard-to-find items.

The nation's retailers expanded their hours and offered deep discounts on everything from toys to TVs in hopes of getting consumers, many of whom are worried about high unemployment and tight credit, to open their wallets.

A number of stores, including Walmart and many Old Navy locations, opened on Thanksgiving, hoping to make the most of the extra hours. Toys R Us opened most of its stores just after midnight Friday.

But worries about jobs clearly were on top of shoppers' minds as they focused on big bargains on TVs and practical gifts. Many shoppers said Friday they plan to spend less this year than they did last year , The Associated Press reports.

It was also reported, t he annual ritual of American consumerism is being monitored closely for signs the U.S. shopper is again ready to propel the economy forward, after the global financial crisis last year led to the worst holiday season in nearly four decades.

Macy's Inc (M.N) CEO Terry Lundgren said retailers should have a decent holiday performance in 2009, at the very least on a comparable basis since the prior year was so dismal.

"That's very different than last year," Lundgren told cable business channel CNBC. "Last year we were falling off a cliff, grabbing for branches on the way down."

Debra Diriwachter, a supermarket cashier, waited for several hours outside the Queens Center mall in New York before doors opened at 11 p.m. EST on Thursday. She is cutting back her gift budget this year and will use only cash for purchases .

"I don't like to be in debt and if I know what I am spending, that's good," she said.

The first 200 shoppers entering the mall, some in their pajamas, were handed $10 gift cards to whet the appetit e, Reuters reports .

Meanwhile, in Vermont , University Mall and its retail outlets opened bright and early at 4 a.m. A constant stream of shoppers walked into Sears, many heading for the appliance floor and scoring items ranging from washers and dryers to digital TVs.

But the plain fact is that most people have less to spend on the holidays this year, although merchants we spoke with say the local economy is better than many other places around the country.

At Apple Mountain in downtown Burlington, owner Marie Bouffard was decorating for the upcoming holidays before Thanksgiving. She expects plenty of customers, but not many shoppers who are willing to drop a lot of money right now. "I think what's going to happen this Christmas is people are going to shop but they're going to be looking for lower ticket prices," she told WCAX News.

She's confident that her specialty, Vermont-made products, will make Black Friday a good day -- if not a spectacular day. She continued, "Last year was a tough year too, remember, because we had just gone into the whole economic crisis. So I'm not expecting this year to be worse. I'm thinking it's going to be pretty comparable to last year. But I do think that personally, we have really shifted our buying. And we're buying items that retail for under fifty dollars. That's been our focus, to just really bring that price point down , " WCAX reports.

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