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Get ready — Super Bowl of shopping awaits

MANATEE — The holiday sales retailers have offered up until now — just pregame material.

The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday — the Super Bowl of shopping. Despite the economy, the retail industry says post-Thanksgiving Day sales remain the main draw for consumers.

“Black Friday has become a cultural phenomenon, it’s a tradition that people really enjoy,” said Rick McAllister, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Retail Federation. “I know many retailers are trying to spread out their deals, but I believe that you’ll see a continuation of the excitement the day after Thanksgiving.”

Try 134 million people joining in the shop-til-you-drop festivities.

That’s how many consumers the National Retail Federation is projecting will participate in Black Friday this year, up from 128 million in 2008.

At Prime Outlets-Ellenton, Marketing Manager Sarah Ozgun expects the shopping mall will see at least 26,000 consumers for its fourth-annual midnight madness event.

“We’re anticipating the same amount of traffic as last year or even more customers than last year,” Ozgun said. “With the economy still weak, customers are looking for the big discounts.”

Prime Outlets hired 10 off-duty Florida Highway Patrol troopers as it did last year to help direct traffic coming off Interstate 75. The midnight madness event typically creates traffic jams along I-75 by 2 a.m. And the mall’s 2,400-spot parking lot generally reaches capacity by 12:30 a.m.

Prime Outlets posted on its Web site 10 pages of discounts eligible for the midnight event as well as for the remainder of the weekend. Among them are 30 percent off total purchases at Adidas, 50 percent off total purchases at Kate Spade and 40 percent off all purchases at Tommy Hillfiger.

Ozgun said she doesn’t expect pre-Black Friday sales will take away from the hype at Prime Outlets.

“The (Black Friday) sales are just incredible so it’s definitely worth the trip out here at midnight,” Ozgun said.

Bealls, too, hosted some pre-Black Friday sales. But on Friday the Bradenton-based retailer is pulling out all the stops on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Bealls Department stores will open at 4 a.m. and is advertising at least 250 “Beall ringer” sales for the day with markdowns of 60 percent on toys, and 50-60 percent on home decor and housewares. The store also is promoting giveaways such as free ornaments and Bealls bucks to the first in line.

“There’s going to be a lot of effort this year to try to target the customer,” McAllister said.

DeSoto Square mall, too, will have giveaways from one of its anchor retailers, JCPenney. And mall Manager Jeni Wilson says sales such as FYE’s two movies for $10 and GameStop’s PlayStation 3 bundle with three games for $299.99 will be popular.

“We’re cautiously optimistic and anticipating a good holiday season with the kick off on Black Friday,” Wilson said.

Retail trade organizations say their members are more upbeat about this year’s holiday shopping season.

“Last year was the worst Christmas shopping period in 40 years,” McAllister said. “Our reports from our members have said business is up over the last four months, and a majority of them are saying, ‘We’re feeling better about this year.’”

The National Retail Federation projects a 1 percent decline in holiday shopping this year. Last year, retailers saw a 3 percent decrease.

A National Retail Federation survey projects the busiest time for retailers Friday will be between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. when about 28 percent of consumers will hit the stores.

“While consumers are still expected to remain cautious with their holiday spending, the anticipation of Black Friday deals seems to be coaxing shoppers out of hibernation,” said Pamela Goodfellow, a senior analyst with BIGresearch, which conducted the survey for the National Retail Federation. “May the retailers with the best promotions win.”