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Black Friday Notebook: Shoppers flock to malls for midnight madness events

November 26, 2010 |  8:05 am

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Black Friday is well underway at stores around the Southland.

Stores were packed at Lakewood Center, which opened at midnight for the first time. Lines snaked out of Macy's and the Disney Store as shoppers clad in pajamas raced to get the most egregious holiday deals.

 At Toys R Us in Torrance, store attendants led wild-eyed shoppers through the isles as they peppered them with questions about where to find Buzz Lightyear toys, X-Box games, Zoobles and Barbies. In order to avoid a stampede through the door, the store let only a set amount of shoppers in at a time, reminding them not to run in the aisles.

At Best Buy, which opened at 5 a.m., hundreds of customers huddled in tents swaying in the chilly breeze while others simply tried to cocoon themselves in lawn chairs with as many blankets as possible. 

"I've always heard about Black Friday and never did it. So I finally decided to come out and it happened to be freezing," said Cody Muniz, 19, as he waited in the dark with his friend Jose Lopez, 20.

Retailers have been feeling positive heading into this all-important Thanksgiving weekend, saying they've already noticed increased consumer confidence in recent months. Economists are expecting the best holiday season since 2006.

"I do think this year the customer is a little more willing to open up their wallet and more willing to spend their money," said Jerry Storch, chief executive of Toys R Us.

Much shopping on Thursday night. Jesus Gamboa, 25, said he started waiting in line at Toys R Us in Torrence at 5 p.m. for their 10 p.m. opening. 

"I'm getting a play set for my son; I'm saving about $200 on that one," said Gamboa. "The only reason I'm doing it is for my son; otherwise, I'd never be out here."

Black Friday opening hours have steadily crept earlier in recent years as rivals try to one-up each other and grab market share. Sears was open on Thanksgiving Day for the first time ever, joining other big chains Kmart and Wal-Mart, which are also open on the holiday.

Toys R Us opened two hours earlier this year, at 10 Thanksgiving night, to get a head start on sales.

"We make sure that we're very competitive and aggressive on Black Friday, trying to make sure that each year is bigger than the year before," Storch said. "We spend the entire year getting ready for this."

Photo: Ilene Agan, 27, tries to get in touch with her fiance, who is securing a shopping cart at the other side of the store, at the Toys R Us in Torrance, which opened its doors to eager shoppers at 10 on Thursday night. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times 

-- Nate Jackson and Andrea Chang