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Updated: Local Shoppers Hit Stores Early for Black Friday Bargains

The day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, is the busiest shopping day of the year and kicks off the holiday shopping season. As early as Thursday evening, shoppers from Cranberry to North Hills to Robinson, came out with one common goal—a good deal.

Mere hours after taking their last bites of Thanksgiving dinner, thousands of area bargain hunters awakened from their food comas and headed to malls and box stores in hopes of snagging at least a few Black Friday deals. 

“I dragged them,” Lorraine Boyer joked, pointing to her two daughters, Marie Johnston and Michelle Giovango. “I’ve been dragging them for 12 years.”

“It’s a tradition. It’s nice to go out with family,” daughter Marie Johnston added. 

They weren't alone. By 8:30 p.m. Thursday evening, every parking space was taken in the and parking lots in Cranberry. Lines stretched around the block as eager shoppers waited for doors to open and the 2011 holiday shopping season to begin.

Cranberry residents Boyer, Johnston and Giovango stood first, second and third in the line of hundreds outside Toys R’ Us. To snag these coveted spots, the trio arrived at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. In return for their effort, the family hoped to take home Legos and Barbies at drastically reduced prices.

“We love it," Giovango said. 

Just one shopping complex north, tents lined up neatly in front of . The self-proclaimed leader of this tent city was Lenny Radzicki of Freedom.

“Absolutely. Last year I was here,” he said matter-of-factly when asked if this shopping trip was an annual event. “The year before that I was at Walmart.”

Radzicki and his buddies not only spent Thanksgiving in the Best Buy line but also the day before, getting in line at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“We deep-fried a turkey in the parking lot. We had a Thanksgiving,” Radzicki said. “And my family’s got a plate at home for me too.”

For that family, Radzicki hopes to bring home a new 42-inch television—for the sale price of $199.

Analysts expect holiday spending to be down this year, and Radzicki's discounted TV deal is just one example of the blowout bargains that retailers are offering to lure customers into stores.

Another example: late-night shoppers at Walmart can score an Xbox 360 4GB with Kinect Console for $199.96 plus a $50 Walmart gift card. That’s nearly half-off the regular $300 price.

An Xbox 360 is exactly what local resident Lisa DiNapoli hoped to take home from the .

“It’s worth going,” DiNapoli said, scanning the packed parking lot and the 50 people standing in line ahead of her.  “But I don’t know if I’ll get one.”

In the early-morning hours, parking lots at Ross Park Mall and The Mall at Robinson were jammed to capacity. Inside, crowds of overnight shoppers flocked to take advantage of the deals at a handful of stores including Old Navy, Express and Ann Taylor.

"Victoria's Secret seems like the place to be," shopper Angela Fazio, of Robinson, joked in the packed store. 

Inside the Bath & Body Works shop at Ross Park Mall, Jenna Lyne, 12, talked with Patch as she balanced two tote bags filled with free goodies in one hand and handful of soap, lotion and candles in the other.

“This is the first year I’ve been able to go with my mom to this,” she said smiling. “We looked at the ads in the paper this morning…it’s really fun.”

Some Ross Park retailers went beyond holding traditional Black Friday sales to lure shoppers through their doors. Macy’s featured a live DJ pumping out the latest hits at dance-club decibel levels. Bare-chested male models stood outside the doorway of Abercrombie & Fitch, inviting bargain hunters to enter the dimly-lit store.

Both tactics seemed to grab shoppers’ attention.

“I mean, I looked over and wow,” said Ross Township native Aimee Reid, 38. “Those boys don’t have any shirts on!”

All these local shoppers aren’t alone in their quest for the Black Friday bargain. According to the National Retail Federation, 152 million people plan to shop during Black Friday weekend.  That's 14 million people more than last year. 

While that's good news for retailers, more shoppers is an unwelcome change for bargain hunters such as DiNapoli, who less than 15 minutes after walking through Walmart's doors in search of that XBox 360, walked out again empty-handed. 

"They were sold out," she said. "People in there had six of them each."

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