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Away from Big Malls and Box Store Shopping Frenzies, Most Shoppers Saw a Tame Black Friday

For shoppers looking for less crowds on Black Friday, outdoor areas like Georgetown's M Street and Market Common Clarendon, or smaller malls such as The Ballston Common might be the way to go.

While the Pentagon City Mall and bigger box stores like Target and Walmart met with frenzied lines of shoppers when they opened their doors late Thursday night, smaller venues saw much quieter Black Fridays. 

"I'll tell you one thing, I'm never going to Walmart again anywhere near Black Friday," said Ballston shopper Cindy Lopez. "We went there last night because we were looking for an Xbox for my brother, and it was insane. Usually I love camping out, it's exciting and it gives me a rush. But the line went from the registers at the front to the back of the store, and in the electronics department, I heard one lady threatening to punch another lady in the face." 

Told from the calm, relatively quiet atmosphere of the Ballston Common Mall, this Black Friday horror story seemed unreal. 

At 7 a.m., all was quiet at the Market Common Clarendon and Ballston Commons Mall, with only a handful of shoppers choosing to take advantage of early morning sales. 

"I arrived at 3:45 this morning to start getting the store ready, and my first customer came in at 5:10 this morning," said a clerk at JoS. A. Bank, which was one of the few Clarendon stores that opened it's doors early. "We've been surprised to see such a small crowd this year, but it usually picks up later in the afternoon," added his coworker.

At the Ballston Commons Macy's, which opened at midnight on Thanksgiving, clerks on duty said they saw a modest number of shoppers instead of the rush that some were predicting.

"We had a good number of people here at midnight, but by 2 or 3 this morning it was pretty quiet. I think a lot of the people who go out early are looking for electronics. I saw the news, and heard that Tysons was swarmed, but this mall isn't as big," said a Macy's clerk on duty Thursday night.

While retailers were likely not as pleased with the slower pace of business, some stores didn't open their doors until 9 or 10 a.m.

"We're more a lifestyle center, not a huge regional mall," said a clerk at Clarendon Commons, who has worked in the fashion retail industry for 15 years. "We don't expect crazy numbers here. Most of our shoppers want to sleep in, have breakfast, get ready, then come to enjoy. It's a neighborhood lifestyle."

Shoppers said they were happy browsing for purchases in a more relaxed atmosphere.

"It's nice to be able to be out in the sun while shopping," said members of the Geitner family, enjoying the walk between stores at the Clarendon Commons outdoor venue. 

Other shoppers, however, took their Black Friday bargain hunting much more seriously. On M Street, Georgetown student Wardah Athar arrived at at 6 a.m. to grab limited time early morning deals before heading out to Pentagon City Mall. By 11 a.m., bags in hand, she was back on M Street at H & M shopping for sweaters. 

"I was disappointed this year, I thought there were a lot more signs than deals," said Athar. "I felt like every store had huge discount signs up, but when we went in, it would just be a tiny rack in the back of store, and almost everything else would be basically the regular price. I thought last year was better."

Overall, shoppers at smaller venues reported enjoying finding bargains without the frenzy; proof that despite pepper spray nightmares and midnight shopping madness, a quieter Black Friday is possible.

It's certainly something for shoppers to keep in mind during the next several weeks, which will be the busiest time of the year for many stores. According to the National Retail Federation, 20 percent of sales last year were made between Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. 

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