The holiday sales push is on today for participants in the annual Small Business Saturday. Downtown Beaufort merchants plan special promotions, with details and coupons available on the shops' websites or by contacting stores. Shoppers can register for prizes and receive a free "I shopped local in Downtown Beaufort" bag at the Main Street Beaufort, USA table from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the clock on Bay Street. American Express card-users can also get $25 credits on their statements if they register at www.shopsmall.com and use the cards at small businesses.
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Fifteen-year-old Kenyatta Pusha and her aunts really wanted the black Rampage Baxter boots on sale Friday at Belk department store for $19.99.
They wanted them so much they arrived at the store in Beaufort at 6:45 p.m. Thursday so they could be first in line when it opened at midnight for Black Friday.
"We knew everybody wanted the same boots, so we wanted to make sure that we were first ones in the door so everybody could get them," said Pusha, who lives in Beaufort.
The Black Friday sales and door busters did not wait until after Thanksgiving, nor will they end Friday for some Beaufort area stores.
Kmart ran three sets of door busters -- starting at 6 a.m. Thursday -- to beat the competition, store manager Bill Kutz said. More than 400 people waited in line for the first set, more than 200 for the second at 8 p.m. Thursday and about 100 for the 5 a.m. Friday opening.
"Within the first five minutes, we sold out of everything as far as the door busters," he said.
Electronics such as flat-screen TVs and buy-one-pair-get-one-pair-free shoes were the biggest draw.
The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales will eclipse $586 billion this year, an increase of 4.1 percent over last year. Depending on the store, holiday sales account for 20 to 40 percent of annual sales.
Although the federation does not provide data to indicate what percentage of holiday sales are made on Black Friday, it claims the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year.
Based on reactions from area merchants, the holiday shopping season is off to a fast start.
Dunkin' Donuts brought coffee and hot chocolate to the Beaufort Best Buy parking lot to keep shoppers awake and warm Thursday night while waiting in line.
Sherrie Mack, manager of the Best Buy in Bluffton, said shoppers were in line well before the store opened at midnight. The hottest-selling items were TVs, laptop and tablet computers, and Blu-Ray movies and TV shows, she said.
"I've seen so many people with handfuls of movies," Mack said.
While Pusha and her family were willing to stand in line, others like Dorothy Alford, 81, of Ridgeland waited until the crowds died down to hit the sales.
"I'm not one that gets in line at 3 o'clock in the morning," she said. "I wouldn't wait in line all that time."
Instead, Alford and three of her granddaughters headed out at about 10 a.m. for early Christmas shopping at Belk and JCPenny. Laden with shopping bags, she called the sales "wonderful." Her granddaughters could pick out their own presents, even though the gifts will remain wrapped until Dec. 25.
A shift manager at Walmart said sales went well, but directed further questions to the company's corporate office. Leverne Ward stopped in the store at about 1 p.m. to buy his wife's present with their 10 percent employee-discount card and said he only waited three minutes at the checkout.
"We waited around till the afternoon to let the real shoppers get out of the way," he said.
Reporter Casey Conley contributed to this report.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonBeaufort.