Saturday November 28th, 2015 8:06AM

Early opening draws Black Friday crowds to local malls

By Staff
UNDATED - While there might have been some protests about retailers opening their stores on Thanksgiving night for an early start to the holiday shopping season, shoppers ignored the naysayers and showed up anyway to search for big bargains.

Even though Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville did not open officially until midnight for Black Friday, the anchor stores at the mall opened at 8 p.m., and throngs of customers crowded the doors to be among the first to shop.

Hundreds of shoppers, including Brooke Odom, 18, of Gainesville stood in a line that wrapped around the Belk women's store. She said she arrived at 5:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. opening, even though she preferred the later openings in years past.

"I wish it was a midnight because it kind of takes the fun out of it because it's like staying up late and doing an all-nighter and now...gosh...I don't even have time to take my nap like I normally do," said Odom, laughing.

Odom said she comes specifically to Belk every year for Black Friday, since the store typically gives away gift cards to the first 250 customers in line.

The crowds gathered early at the Mall of Georgia in Buford, as well. The feelings about the early opening were mixed.

A shopper who identified herself only as Susan said she preferred the Thanksgiving night opening.

"I just like to start shopping earlier," she said. "And, it's not as cold to stand outside because you have to stand outside in line, and it's so cold when you go in the morning."

On the other hand, shopper Kelli Cook said she likes the midnight - or later - store openings.

"It's tradition! It didn't seem right leaving the house while it was still daylight outside."

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