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Shoppers Step Lively in Downtown Walnut Creek

Video: A look at the busy promenades of Broadway Plaza at midday on Black Friday.

Downtown Walnut Creek was buzzing with Black Friday shoppers, coming from near and far.

Renae Schüler journeyed from Chico to visit her cousins in Walnut Creek. The shopping is sparse in Chico, so she plans for her trips in Walnut Creek. In Friday's case, she knew she needed winter clothing, and she scored "eight or nine shirts" and a sweater by 12:30 p.m. Friday. It was also a delayed birthday shopping expedition — her birthday was a month ago.

Schuler was shopping with cousins Erika Schuler of Walnut Creek and Laura Davidson of Los Angeles.

The foot traffic was more sparse and traffic more available in downtown Lafayette Friday. Pendleton had a number of shoppers sampling fine woolens as it offered a $25 gift card with $100 in purchases. Several shoppers were lined up ready to come in the door at 9 a.m. Friday, said manager Tanya Dacanay.

"This time there was a better response (to the gift card offer)," said Dacanay. "I had customers right out of the gate. Fantastic."

The line was bigger in the special opening at 9 p.m. Thursday (that's Thanksgiving) at the Target store in Walnut Creek. More than 300 were in a line that snaked around the front of the store. This is part of a trend of creep from Black Friday to very gray Thursday with stores able to entice shoppers out at the end of Turkey Day.

There was a projection that this year's holiday shopping season would represent a 4.1 percent increase over 2011's by the National Retail Federation of America, according to a piece by The Guardian.

"Black Friday is moving earlier and earlier," according to Dale Achabal, the executive director at the Retail Management Institute at Santa Clara University. He said sales are becoming more elaborate and the day is something of a social event, a way for many families to get together and kick off the holidays.

The term "Black Friday" for the busy (reputedly the busiest on the calendar) shopping day after Thanksgiving goes back to the 1960s and a term used by Philadelphia police for the headaches and long shifts that the day brought.

The website ShopperTrak predicts that, once the receipts are in, Black Friday 2012 will be the busiest shopping day of the year.

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