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Braving the cold to score night-time savings

Joni Sappington looks at a brochure for Toys R Us as she stands in line outside the store in Pineville, N.C. Nov. 24, 2011.

Chris Keane/Reuters/Chris Keane/Reuters

Everyone likes a bargain, but it takes a special kind of determination to brave the night-time cold of Buffalo in November to save a hundred bucks on a television.

Customers lined up for as long as 28 hours to score Black Friday bargains across the city, with electronics stores seeing lineups that snaked around their massive buildings. Not even major heart surgery – in Linda Krugman's case a triple bypass only five weeks ago – could keep consumers away. She camped out almost 28 hours to ensure a deal on a television and computer.

"This is the only way I can afford Christmas," she said, adding she could save as much as $500. "I'm on a limited budget, so this is fantastic."

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The day after Thanksgiving is the most important shopping day of the year in the United States, as customers rush to stores to load up before the holidays.

This year, U.S. sales are expected to rise 2.8 per cent from 2010, according to the National Retail Federation forecast.

"This is a tradition, I've been doing it since I was six with my grandparents," said 22-year-old college student Lindsey Huetter, who planned on buying a 42-inch television for about $300 (she didn't know its regular retail price).

In the U.S., retailers expect 152 million people to hit stores this Black Friday weekend, up 10.1 per cent from last year. Many retailers have stocked their stores at conservative levels, not wanting to be stuck with excess inventory that they have to clear out at steep discounts.

Nashville homebuilder Tomer Minuskin doesn't think that will be a problem. While his mid-priced homes have been slow to move in a tough economy, he's convinced Americans have money to spend.

"Everyone has extra money – either they have been foreclosed on or moved into apartments. So, they have money to spend," he said. "Low ticket items are going fast because people don't think twice. Big ticket? People are scared."

Still, the long lineups frustrated some shoppers who had hoped to get a deal. Toys R Us opened its doors at 9 p.m., well ahead of most retailers who flung open their doors at midnight. Almost 500 circled a Buffalo store, with the earliest customers arriving around 3 p.m.

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"This is absolutely crazy," said Bonnie Swanson, who hoped to buy some video Barbies and a tent for her children. "My time with my family is much more important than standing in front of a toy store."

According to a new poll by Angus Reid for UPS Canada, Canadian retailers can expect to lose one of every five shoppers to U.S. Black Friday-Cyber Monday discounts. Thirty per cent will be shopping for the holidays.

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