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Shoppers stay up late in Dawson
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Thousands of shoppers burned the midnight oil in Dawson County on Black Friday. Traffic backed up for miles into Forsyth County on Highway 400 Thursday night, according to the Dawson County Sheriffs Office.

Our shoppers behaved well, said Heather Halpern, general manager of North Georgia Premium Outlets, noting many stores in the mall were open for business by 9 p.m. Thursday. Its too soon to know what sales were, but we saw lots of bags and lots of happy shoppers.

Traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday is considered the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and is known for retailers use of special doorbuster deals and heavy discounts to lure customers into their stores. Absent hard figures, lots of shopping bags is the best early indicator that the holiday season seems to be off to a good start for local retailers.

We are optimistic about the weeks ahead and look forward to Dawsonville and North Georgia Premium Outlets being a destination for savvy shoppers, Halpern said.

Strong sales at the outlet mall and other retail stores boost sales tax revenues for the county, city and schools.

The Department of Revenue does not make public details about specific store revenues, so actual numbers are not available for comparisons, but some local officials have estimated over the years that the outlet mall may generate as much as 80 percent of the countys total sales tax revenue.

North Georgia Premium Outlets, over the Thanksgiving weekend, generates traffic and sales equal to or surpassing most of the Mega-Malls in metro Atlanta, according to Charlie Auvermann, executive director of the Development Authority of Dawson County.

(The outlet mall) typically ranks with Perimeter Mall and Mall of Georgia and outpaces North Point Mall and others, Auvermann said. All of the surrounding restaurants and other specialty stores also benefit from the huge customer appeal of the outlet mall during such major shopping weekends. Dawson County is very lucky to have the North Georgia Premium Outlets mall, he added

Walmart, The Home Depot and Kroger also contribute significantly to Dawson Countys Thanksgiving holiday weekend sales tax windfall.

Dawsonvilles Walmart started its After-Thanksgiving Sale on Thanksgiving Day for the first time ever. Items in the Apparel, Home and Toy departments went on sale at 10 p.m., while the Electronics Event began at midnight.

Besides the overflowing parking lot, arriving shoppers got another clue about the size of the crowd inside: there were no shopping carts.

People were stalking customers as they left the check-out lines, following them to their cars to get their baskets, a shopper recalled later. The place was packed!

Walmart introduced some changes this year aimed at better managing the frenzy and improving the experience for customers. Among those changes, the store implemented an elaborate system by which shoppers waiting in line for cut-rate Xboxes could take potty breaks. One shopper described the process later, explaining, After you got a numbered ticket guaranteeing your place in line, you were allowed a restroom break. You could check out of line and have a sales associate hold your ticket while you left for no more than 15 minutes. When you returned, you had to check back in line, show your ID and sign a paper saying your ticket had been returned to you.

For all the excitement it generates, many economic analysts caution against using Black Friday spending as a barometer for the nations economic conditions. Lots of shopping bags and lots of happy shoppers dont mean that much without knowing what was in shoppers bags and how much money left their wallets to fill those bags - details that will not be fully understood until well after Christmas Day.