EMERYVILLE (CBS/KCBS/BCN) — Bargain hunters braved the chilly Friday morning temperatures as stores and malls across the Bay Area were filled with those looking for big discounts.

Most parking lots were filled early in the morning as customers like Barbara were looking for the big Black Friday deals.

She emerged from the Best Buy in Emeryville with a new flat screen TV.

“I’ve never done it before. My twin sister told me, let’s have an experience,” she said. “We came down here around 3:30 in the morning.”

KCBS’ Mark Seelig Reports:

Best Buy General Manager Sean Flynn said they were pretty much problem-free dealing with the early morning rush.

“You suffer the line-cutters in the beginning, but that’s normal,” Flynn said. “You just control it to make it easy. We gave them coffee, so they’re a little happier and warmer when they come in.”

Flynn said this year’s crowd was about 30-40 percent larger than last year.

With many people still struggling in the down economy, many shoppers were thinking about spending less this holiday season.

“Just to get some good deals. The economy is bad this year so I’m just looking for some good deals,” said one early morning shopper.

Many spent the night outside their favorite stores, braving temperatures in the low 30s so they could be first in line when the doors opened.

The Macy’s department store in San Francisco’s Union Square opened at 4 a.m. and is “just popping” today, store spokeswoman Laura Gardner Smith said.

Smith said popular discounted items included jewelry, an e-reader, winter outfits, and various housewares.

An employee at the Kohl’s department store in Pleasant Hill, which opened at 3 a.m., said the store was still very busy as of 10 a.m.

Black Friday crowds have grown in recent years due to increased competition between local businesses and also between shoppers looking for the best bargains, according to Tomas Gomez-Arias, a professor of marketing at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga.

“Companies are putting more and more emphasis on this part of the year,” Gomez-Arias said. “For many of them, it’s when they make a large chunk of their sales, from Black Friday to early January.”

Companies have started “trying to outsmart each other, opening one hour earlier than the other,” among other tactics they’re using to attract customers, he said.

On the consumer side, Gomez-Arias said he has seen an increase in what he calls “competitive shopping” this time of year.

“For many people, there’s so much pressure in being the one getting it, the one winning the bargain, that they’re willing to put up with…this craziness,” he said. “We’re a competitive society, we just want to win and will wait those two or three days in line to be a winner.”

He said “big ticket electronics” such as flat screen TV’s and computers are the most valued items on Black Friday.

“With these sort of things, getting the right bargain can save you hundreds of dollars,” he said. “It’s the biggest bang for the buck.”

The Black Friday deals are even more enticing given the hard economic times, he said.

“Some people have a higher incentive to stretch their dollars,” he said. “When you’re flush with money, spending an extra couple hundred (dollars) is not as important as nowadays, and getting up early or not sleeping helps you get the deals.”

(© CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

Comments (2)
  1. CC from the other side of the bay says:

    Went to the Great Mall in Fremont today…. Spent 1 hour in the car just trying to find a parking space….. we gave up trying so my husband got out of the car found a restroom and checked Sears Outlet store for a stove to replace our broken one didn’t find any we wanted and returned to the car….. we then waited another 2 hours trying to leave the parking lot so we could go home.
    I will NEVER AGAIN go to the Great Mall to shop because the management doesn’t know how to control the number of cars going in and out of their parking lot.

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