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Shoppers camp overnight for Mall of America's Black Friday sales

Hundreds were in line when the mall opened at 5 a.m.

Black Friday shoppers made an early play for the Mall of America, which opened its doors to hundreds of shoppers at 5 a.m. this morning.

The MOA has been able to recapture some of the remaining Black Friday mystique by not joining the other Twin Cities malls in opening its doors on Thanksgiving.

And the Bloomington megamall was rewarded with a hefty crowd as doors opened, with some camping overnight to get inside.

The main reason for this is that once again the MOA was handing out gift cards to the first 200 people at its North Entrance for Black Friday.

These gift cards ranged in value from $10 to $500, and the Star Tribune reports this encouraged some shoppers to start lining up as early at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Santa Claus was there to greet the first shoppers, while hot coffee was handed out to those waiting in line. Fortunately, temperatures overnight stayed pretty mild for this time of year.

Mall officials estimated the crowd at opening time was around 2,500, FOX 9 reports. 

Even after the gift cards were gone, MOA staff started handing out scratch-offs containing various prizes, with 8,000 of these expected to be handed out throughout the day.

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Many of the other major U.S. retailers opened their doors on Thanksgiving evening, although there are a notable few – Nordstrom among them – that have waited till Black Friday itself.

Elsewhere, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly welcomed customers who piled through the doors at its store in Eden Prairie, after earlier giving a rousing speech to store staffers.

The retailer is hoping for a bumper holiday season, with deals on electronics always one of the big sellers on Black Friday.

It comes at a time when Americans are bullish about the economy and are willing to increase their spending accordingly.

The annual Thanksgiving Weekend shopping survey by Deloitte found that 78 percent of consumers plan on spending more this year. 

They'll have to work harder for it in the Twin Cities however, where shoppers are expected to spend $1,238 per household this holiday season, compared to $1,536 nationally.

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