At Towson Town Center, off to the shopping races

Black Friday got a jump start in some locations around Towson, including at some stores and outlets that opened Thanksgiving evening. But the biggest player in town, Towson Town Center, opted to wait for a slightly more traditional debut — at least waiting until the clock struck midnight.

Some 50 stores had opened at midnight on Friday, up from about 20 that participated in the late night debut last year, according to Annie Wildasin, senior marketing manager for the mall.

"We had lots of people here at 11 o'clock (for the midnight opening). It was really busy, (and) the feedback was very good," she said.

Store such as Macy's, Abercrombie & Fitch, White House Black Market, Gamestop and others took part in the midnight event — Starbucks was given a slight head start, at 11:30 p.m., to help shoppers fuel up.

It was the second year Macy's had participated in the midnight affair, and Jain Trader, vice president and store manager of Macy's, said the store's crowd had built compared to last year.

"We had people waiting outside," she said. "It was very, very busy. People were looking for bargains."

Trader is marking her 26th year of Black Fridays in the retail profession, and while some people view the early start as a mixed blessing, she has seen the events evolve over the years to something that customers look forward to.

"Everybody is looking for bargains," she said.

Trader said for 2012, the store opened the Christmas season with a deejay and music to greet hearty shoppers. "We try to make it fun," she said.

And profitable. Wildasin said the National Retail Federation has predicted that holidays sales for 2012 could be up as much as 4.1 percent compared to last year, and starting early helps make sure retailers capture as much of that wave as possible.

Trader said Black Friday gives stores an immediate sense of where the holiday season will go, and "sets the tone" for the Christmas rush.

But stores have also become savvy about using it to bring those bargain hunters back again and again. She said for Friday's debut, associates were busy telling customers about special bargains at a "Friends and Family" event Macy's will have this coming week, Nov. 28-Dec. 3, and also marketing other events and specials they'll have during the season — all in hopes of bringing people back for more.

"It's very important to us," she said of Black Friday. "We see it as a way to start a successful holiday season."

But Wildasin also noted that while Black Friday remains all about shopping, it has become an event that carries a traditional and social element.

"You see a lot of women in the mall who come out with friends, and they're having a goood time. It's an outing for them," she said. "It's a fun gathering. There's definitely a social aspect."

On Friday by 10 a.m., Towson Town Center was already seeing its second wave of shoppers looking for bargains. The mall was busy, but not packed — the longest visible line at 9:30 a.m. was at Starbucks, where many people, bags in hand, were refueling.

"We're going to see it build all day," Wildasin said, noting that the biggest hours were expected to be between noon and 2 p.m. "It's an all-day shopping day. If you're going to offer the deals, people are going to come out."

Outside the mall in Towson on Friday, local shops and restaurants throughout the downtown were also offering special discounts and promotions, according to the Towson Chamber of Commerce.

Details on Black Friday, as well as the schedule for the full holidays in Towson, are available at the chamber website,

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