holiday shoppers, flush with cash from a booming economy, hit stores at dawn on Friday on one of the busiest shopping days of the year as traditional retailers battled with Internet sites for consumer dollars.
For mall mavens and e-enthusiasts alike, Pokemon was the must-have toy. The cartoon character -- star of trading cards, television shows and a new movie -- tops wish lists for millions of kids this year.
However, mall traffic was lighter than normal in the early hours, according to John Konarski, vice president of research with the International Council of Shopping Centers, perhaps because toy makers loaded up on everything Pokemon. Unlike prior years when parents fought for limited supplies of Furby or Tickle Me Elmo items, there was plenty of Pokemon.
``It's a little slow,'' Konarski said. ``I think that the reason for this is because there is no big, hot toy that drove customers in this morning. There isn't one Pokemon thing that is really popular. Everything about Pokemon is hot, and there is a lot of it available.''
Still, shoppers gathered at New York metropolitan area malls as early as 5 a.m. (1000 GMT). The reason? The early bird catches the Pokemon. Consumers were saying it was going to be a ``Pokemon Christmas,'' and if they didn't get to the malls early, they would miss out on the prime Pokemon picks.
Pamela Rucker, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, said traffic at malls she visited in New Jersey and New York was fairly strong, with most shoppers flocking to toy stores, many of which opened early to meet demand.
``A lot of people are in toy stores, leaving with bags full of toys,'' Rucker said. ``Macy's Herald Square was literally shoulder-to-shoulder. That's good. It's going to set the tenor for the rest of the season.''
Rucker said cool, rainy weather along much of the East Coast should help apparel retailers move winter clothing, which had been neglected on the racks after several weeks of unseasonably warm weather.
Mall operator Taubman Centers Inc. (NYSE:TCO - news) said there were 200 shoppers lined up outside its Grand