Overland Park Droves of bargain hunters packed Kansas stores Friday, the first shopping day of the holiday season, helping retailers chart early record sales.
"From home furnishings to women's apparel, it's all going. It's flying out the door," said Marlon Handcock, assistant store manager at J.C. Penney in Oak Park Mall.
From 11 a.m. to noon, his store, which ranks No. 1 in sales volume for the company nationwide, sold $106,000 in merchandise, the highest volume of sales the department store has recorded in one hour.
Early bird specials at Target Corp. stores in central Kansas drew similar throngs, said Christine O'Trimble, who manages a Target in Wichita.
"The whole Wichita market is up in sales from last year. We've already run out of a couple of our key items," O'Trimble said. "But everyone is in great spirits. No one's pushing or shoving."
She said several hundred people braved icy weather for what has become known as Black Friday, to line up in front of the store before dawn. By 7 a.m., the store had serviced 800 customers in its first hour of business, as compared to the 30 transactions the store normally makes in that time.
Retail analysts credited the shopping boom to early promotional efforts and falling gas prices. The National Retail Federation predicted a 6 percent increase in holiday sales this year, bringing estimated revenues of $439.5 billion for the entire holiday season.
Black Friday has become such an important sales generator that many stores stock shelves, build makeshift display tables and sort warehoused merchandise months in advance to meet the heightened customer demand. At Oak Park Mall, where thousands of cars were circling the crammed parking lot by midday, a crew of police officers stood directing traffic.
John Randall, who said he hit every Wal-Mart in the 160 miles between his Pittsburg home and Overland Park, was despondent by the time he reached the mall Friday.
"We're off after Thanksgiving and like everybody else, we have one day to get our shopping done," Randall said. "I'm just trying to find an Xbox 360 for my son, and they're all sold out."