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Friday, November 25, 2011 - 10:07am

Georgians Start Shopping Early

Black Friday’s morning rush was busy but largely uneventful in Georgia.

The Mall of Georgia in Buford, about 40 miles outside Atlanta, opened earlier than ever at 4 a.m., but several dozen stores opened earlier, so the parking lots at Georgia’s largest mall were packed by 3 a.m.

“I’m not seeing a lot of single shoppers. I’m seeing groups of shoppers, and they’re all busily heading from store to store,” said Carol Cox, the Mall of Georgia’s marketing director. “And the best part is, they have lots of packages in their hands and they’re from a variety of retailers.”

Cox said shoppers were focused and energized. But she said there had been no incidents of shoppers fighting like those making headlines in Los Angeles and North Carolina.

A recent survey from Georgia Southern University found just a third of Georgians plan to spend less this holiday season.

The Georgia Retail Association expects 3 percent growth in holiday sales.

Meanwhile, some small businesses are hoping shoppers save money to spend at their stores Saturday.

What is being called “Small Business Saturday” started as an initiative of American Express, but local business owners are hoping it serves as an alternative for shoppers who want to avoid the lines and crowded parking lots of Black Friday.

More shoppers are using their smartphones to find bargains, too, so Atlanta-based mobile-deal app Scoutmob hopes to capitalize on that anti-Black Friday sentiment.

“Our whole thing is, we have 110 deals on our app in each of our cities,” said Scoutmob co-founder Michael Tavani. “They’re all at local businesses, and every single one of them is the equivalent of a Black Friday-esque deal. I mean, they’re all 50-percent off.”

Other discount services, like LivingSocial, are trying to seize the Black Friday fervor.

LivingSocial spokeswoman Maire Griffin said the service is offering deals with national retailers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday rather than their usual lineup of local restaurants, stores and services.

“Folks are really digging into their holiday shopping and we wanted to make sure we’ve given our members the ability to get something for everyone on their holiday list and all from the comfort of their home or on their smartphone,” Griffin said.

LivingSocial offers discounts in Athens, Augusta, Savannah, south Georgia and metro Atlanta.

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