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      Shoppers turn out in force for Black Friday

      John Richardson has been waiting months for a new flat-screen TV. He waited, patiently, for Black Friday to roll around so he could finally get one.

      "It's Black Friday," said Richardson. "And I thought I could get a pretty good deal."

      Richardson, and thousands of others, flooded stores this afternoon looking for good deals. Richardson was among the early bargain hunters, arriving at Jefferson City's Best Buy at 7 a.m.

      He shelled out $600 for a TV that normally runs several hundred more.

      "A Panasonic TV that markets for $1299, we have that item today for $999 including a Panasonic Blu-ray player, another $200 value," said Peter Maxwell, Best Buy's general manager. "All told you're looking at a complete savings of $500 there."

      They have "really, really good deals today, it's Black Friday," said Evan Richards. "I just wanted to come out and take advantage of that."

      Some of the big ticket items were digital cameras, flat-screen TVs and of course laptops. Some of the more popular laptops - like the $179 netbook, which retails for around $400 - sold out before the doors opened at 5 a.m.

      Among those first in line was Clint Fox, who camped out since 10 a.m. Wednesday, hoping to snag a netbook.

      "I'm not making as much as I did last year," said Fox. "So I gotta look for the best deals that I can."

      Many stores are trying to rebound after last year's disappointing shopping season, which was one of the worst in decades. Analysts predict this year will be about even, which could be bad news for retailers.

      "Last year obviously everyone talked about the level of traffic," said Maxwell. "I can gladly say that this was significantly different than last year. Like extremely, extremely more traffic."

      Maxwell says deep discounts, combined with earlier advertising seems to have done the trick.

      That could turn out to be a good thing since the holiday shopping season accounts for about 40 percent of many stores' annual sales and profits.