What a steal!
A Vera Bradley purse at half the price lured savvy fashionista Sarah Allen out of her bed to Oakbrook Center early on Black Friday.
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"It's for my birthday, but I don't know about it yet," she said, smiling.
Oak Brook wasn't the first stop for Fowler, who lives in the South suburbs. Before the sun rose, she'd braved Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg to check out doorbusters and found the crowds not as intimidating as expected.
"There weren't as many people as in previous years," Allen said.
In a growing break with tradition, more and more retailers opened their doors Thanksgiving Day to boost sales and counter Internet competitors.
Early Friday, Walmart already announced record-breaking Black Friday results -- based on its Thursday evening sales. From 6 to 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Walmart processed more than 10 million register transactions and Walmart.com processed nearly 400 million page views that day.
A whopping 69 percent of people will shop on Black Friday, analysts say.
Cally Parkinson of Long Grove and her daughter, Charlotte, have shopped every Black Friday together for the past four years.
They swooped into Woodfield Mall at 5:30 a.m. Five hours and several trips to the car to drop off shopping bags later, they were ready for their next stop: Toys 'R' Us.
"It's only 10:30," Cally Parkinson said. "We're getting our second wind."
Charlotte Parkinson, 26, couldn't pass up a 50 percent discount on a red and pink flower scarf from Ann Taylor, reduced from $60 to $30, that she'll give to a friend.
"We don't coupon or look for deals," said Parkinson, who was accompanied by cousin KC Steussy. "It's sort of a fun thing to do. I didn't come to buy a 50-percent-off scarf, but the sign was in the store."
Brady Webb was surrounded by shopping bags as he sipped coffee in the food court at Westfield Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills.
His best buys were half-price merchandise at Hollister Co. and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
"This has been quiet compared to last year," he said. "Maybe it's because last night was such a madhouse at a lot of places."
Webb was among the bargain zealots shopping on Thanksgiving and picked up a 55-inch television at Best Buy in Deer Park.
"For the most part, every store we've been into has been well-organized," he said.
Teen Kassie Kramer of South Elgin splurged on $48 sweatpants at Victoria's Secret in Geneva Commons but also grabbed great buys -- two sweatshirts for $40 from Forever 21 and a "$20-ish" pair of jeans from Hollister Co.
Her friend Lexi Friedewald of Bartlett couldn't resist a sparkly pair of new sunglasses from Charming Charlie's.
But the two 14-year-olds weren't just shopping for themselves. Their lists included boyfriends and a gift for Kassie's mother, who dropped the girls off at 7 a.m.
Despite the chilly morning weather Lesia Banks of Algonquin was all smiles, warmed by her find at the Coach store at Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora.
Taking advantage of a 50 percent discount, Banks stuffed her shopping bag with three purses, a mini iPad cover and two wristlets, all for under $200.
"I have a couple older daughters that I'm buying for," Banks said, "but I had to get a little something for myself, too."
This was Banks' first Black Friday experience, and she was quick to thank her own Santa's helper. "I'm only here because my friend dragged me out here," Banks said, "I should hug her."
It was a random day of Black Friday shopping for Joanna Loboda of Algonquin, because she didn't go in with a calculated strategy. Instead, she shopped solo, didn't clip coupons and didn't hunt online or download any apps to assist her.
Loboda's first stop was Kohl's at Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee and Carpentersville where she scored her best deal of the day thus far -- a six-piece, Food Network Lazy Susan Chip and Dip set for $19.99 originally priced at $49.99.
Thankfully, Loboda didn't need to push people out of the way to get what she wanted at the mall.
"Right now it's empty," she said. Loboda, originally from Poland, opted to spend her Thanksgiving with family in Arlington Heights, rather than in a store.
"For us, Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving," she said. "It's not shopping."
Although he couldn't wear it, Joe Lakdawala of Westmont was just as proud of his Windtunnel Pro vacuum as other consumers were of their fashion finds. The vacuum, reduced to $99 from $169, was worth the lack of sleep, he said.
"I shopped around and looked at Consumer Reports," he said. "My old vacuum isn't performing like it used to." His transaction at Sears in Oakbrook Center took all of three minutes.
"I walked in and bought it," Lakdawala said.
Jennifer Poulos of Crystal Lake didn't intend to buy a Christmas ornament when she walked into Woodfield Mall, but the tree topper from JCPenney was a bargain $13, reduced from $30.
Once friend Mary Redmond pointed the decoration out, Poulos knew it was destiny.
"(Redmond) was holding it and everyone says, 'Oh that's so pretty,'" Poulos said. "It's a fun item and I feel like it was a good price."
Usually Redmond waits until Christmas Eve to buy gifts but this year she joined Poulos and her daughter who brought two teenage friends.
"I wouldn't have come unless they came," Redmond said. "The idea of Black Friday is -- it's a holiday for this generation."
Woodfield Mall officials didn't have exact customer numbers, but Marketing Director Heather Lloyd said business was brisk both days, noting "shoppers are coming out in droves, trying to get the best deal."
• Daily Herald reporters Lenore Adkins, Lee Filas, Christopher Placek, Susan Sarkauskas, Joshua Welge and news services contributed to this report.