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Shoppers head out on Thanksgiving day in search of deals in Glen Burnie, Md. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun video)

Shoppers around the Baltimore region were hitting the malls, plazas and retailers on Black Friday, fulfilling a tradition — even though for many, the holiday retail season has been underway for some time.

At JCPenney in Eastpoint Mall, about two dozen shoppers lined up inside the store, which was open overnight, for a 6 a.m. coupon giveaway.

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Business was slow overnight, but shopper traffic began to pick up after the mall opened at 7 a.m.

Stephanie Weisenborn, of Dundalk, started her day at 7 at Penney, where she found toys and shirts for $9.99.

"It's less crowded in the malls than at Walmart," she said.

Traffic volumes around Baltimore were steady but not overwhelming, according to State Highway Administration cameras.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday season sales are expected to reach $655.8 billion, up nearly 4 percent from about $631 billion last year.

The Maryland Retailers Association was encouraging shoppers to patronize local stores, noting that In some sectors of retail, holiday sales can account for more than 25 percent of sales for the entire year.

"Online shopping may seem appealing from retailers who don't charge sales tax, but your community brick and mortar stores hire your neighbors [and] provide much needed tax revenue," said MRA President Cailey Locklair Tolle in a statement.

WalletHub, a credit score and credit report website, said Black Friday consumers are likely to get the biggest discounts on video games and appliances, and the smallest on jewelry, apparel and accessories.

The site surveyed 35 of the biggest U.S. retailers' advertisements for the day after Thanksgiving and found the stores offering the biggest discounts.

Macy's showed an average discount of more than 63 percent, with JCPenney close behind with more than 62 percent and Kohl's offering a 58 percent average discount, according to the survey.

Stores offering discounts of more than 30 percent on computers and phones included Best Buy, Game Stop, Kmart, JCPenney, Office Depot, Sears, Macy's, Toys R Us, Target and WalMart.

For toys, CVS Pharmacy, Kohl's, Sam's Club and Toys R Us offered some of the biggest discounts, while Macy's, Sears, Kohl's and JCPenney all touted average discounts of more than 50 percent on apparel and accessories.

As people hit the malls, local law enforcement officials were offering tips to make Black Friday shopping safe.

"Focus on your personal safety and the safety of those with you," said Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson in a press release about shopping safety. Johnson said shoppers should:

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Always park in well-lit areas and park close to the entrance of the store or mall.

Don't talk on a cell phone when walking to and from your vehicle. Keep attention on surroundings.

Don't electronically unlock your vehicle until you are within door opening distance.

If you are ready to leave the mall and feel uneasy about entering the parking lot or garage by yourself, stay in the mall and ask for a security escort.

Don't flash large amounts of cash or offer tempting targets for theft such as expensive jewelry or clothing.

Don't fumble for car keys. Have them in your hand, ready to use.

Don't leave valuables - gifts, cell phones, purse or clothing - in open view in your car. Take valuables with you, lock them in your trunk, or cover them in an unobtrusive way.

Keep purses and pocketbooks close to your body. If the pocketbook has long straps, shorten them.

If possible, avoid carrying a large purse when shopping. A fanny pack is compact and more difficult for a thief to grab and run.

Carry only the credit cards you intend to use, leave the others behind.

Jim Joyner contributed to this article

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