By Justin Boron and Michael Davis
Shoppers braved temperatures in the 30s to snap up early morning bargains Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season and one of the busiest retail days of the year.
It's a day that shops bank on to assure them a profit and that more and more families pencil in each year as a pre-dawn family tradition.
As early as 6 a.m., shoppers piled into the Mt. Zion area, pushing the parking lots to about 85 percent capacity by 11 a.m.
Alexia Stone, who had the day off from Mt. Zion High School, said her best purchase of the day was some designer snow boots, unfortunately they cost almost $150.
"It was worth it though, they're real cute," she said.
Down the freeway in Henry County, a similar landscape of shopping carts, cars, and streams of people could be seen at the Tanger Mall
Karrie Reno arrived at the mall in Locust Grove at 7 a.m. from her home in Americus, Ga.
By 10:30 a.m., she stood on the curb in front of a toy store next to a waist-high pile of brightly colored bags and boxes, waiting for her husband to retrieve their truck and haul away the holiday loot.
"We've had a pretty good shopping-time," Reno said. "I have one child, but I have a lot of cousins and nieces and nephews."
Her day was done, she said, but for many more, the holiday shopping season had only begun.
Georgia retailers are expecting big numbers from "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving that's so-named because huge sales help many businesses end the year with a profit, or "in the black."
The Atlanta region is expected to see 7 percent growth this year in retail sales during the period that runs from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, according to Mark Vitner, an economist with Wachovia Corp.
A survey released Monday by the Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association found that more consumers plan to increase their spending during this year's holiday season than did last year.
The survey said that consumers' concern about paying off debt has lessened and economic optimism has grown.
Evidence of the projection surfaced at the Southlake Mall where streams of people flowed up and down the wide corridors. Mothers and fathers balanced strollers on the escalator while grasping onto filled shopping bags.
For some the tumult was too much to handle.
Tim Astin slumped on a bench exhausted as his wife Celia perused a newspaper insert, deciding which sale to hit next.
The couple along with their daughter had come up from Griffin a 9 a.m. and didn't expect to be done until 6 p.m.
Crowds moved quickly most of the day, causing little congestion.
Business was brisk at the outlet mall as well, Assistant General Manager Holly Duffey said.
Lines weren't long and parking was still abundant. "It's really been a pleasant morning," she said. "It's staying busy but it's still a pretty pleasant experience."
Christmas tunes sprinkled the air as Santa Clause sat inside one store, posing for pictures with children.
Patricia and Bill Shumate got to Tanger around 11 a.m., wanting to take advantage of holiday sale prices. The couple was in the south metro Atlanta area from their home in Anniston, Al. visiting a relative for Thanksgiving but had already done their Christmas shopping.
"That's her area," Bill Shumate said pointing to his wife.
While their Christmas shopping was finished, Patricia said she wanted to buy something herself.
"I have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren so if I don't get it done early, I don't get it," she said.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story).