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Troop return boost Black Friday
Holiday shopping off to good start
Sears associate Karesa Miller points to a wall of big screen televisions on sale the Friday after Thanksgiving. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge

Local retailers were busy the Friday after Thanksgiving, catering to cost conscious consumers, many of them soldiers recently returned to Fort Stewart from Iraq. Since October, about 5,000 3rd Infantry Division troops have redeployed. This week and next the bulk of the 3rd ID’s 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team is expected to return home.
“As soon as the 2nd Brigade came back we noticed (improved sales),” said Shcoby Griffin, manager of Bath and Body Works at Hinesville Marketplace. “Business is booming right now.”
Griffin said the difference between this year’s holiday shoppers and last year’s is that more consumers are buying everything on their Christmas lists all at once.
“Most seem to be getting as many people checked off their lists as possible,” Griffin said. She said shoppers seem more comfortable with spending this year than last, but stressed they are avidly hunting for bargains and sticking to a budget.
“Shoppers are making the most of their dollars this year,” Griffin said. Numerous soldiers’ spouses also are buying “pick-me-up” gifts to welcome their loved ones home in addition to “making a dent” in their holiday shopping lists, she said.
“Business definitely increased with the soldiers coming home,” said Ted Funk, manager of Badcock & More Home Furniture on Sandy Run Drive in Hinesville. “It will help our economy here.”
Funk characterized Liberty County as a military community and said troops are genuinely appreciated by local, longtime businesses. Badcock opened in Hinesville nearly 28 years ago, he said. 
“Business has picked up better than last month,” said Julio Rodriguez, owner of Sears Hometown Store on Gen. Screven Way. Rodriguez’s Sears appliance store opened at 4 a.m. for Black Friday and remained busy throughout the morning. Most customers were interested in front loading washers and dryers and “top-of-the-line” refrigerators, he said.
Liberty County resident Huey Young shopped for a new stove at Sears on Black Friday.
“I’m being careful with my spending this year,” Young said. “I’m looking at all the sales.”
“We opened at 5 a.m. for Black Friday. We’ve had a good turnout so far,” said Hinesville Lowe’s manager Ed Durham. “Inventory is holding up pretty well.”
Durham said folks were taking advantage of “deals on ladders,” gift items such as shop vacs, and stocking up on batteries to power toys and games. Sales on “big project” materials, such as flooring, sold well during the past six weeks “leading up to the holidays,” he said.
Super Walmart in Hinesville also opened at 5 a.m. for the Black Friday crowd, said assistant manager Darrell West. Electronics, such as big screen televisions and lap top computers, were hot buys this year, West said. 
People also appeared to be more at ease spending on holiday gifts this year than last, he added.
“The deals were pretty good and they were able to do more,” West said.

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