Pleasantly cool, sunny weather beamed down on holiday shoppers, mimosas stood at the ready inside storefronts and shoppers clutched bags stuffed with gifts on Black Friday throughout Charleston.
The holiday shopping season kicked into high gear on the day after everyone stuffed themselves at family gatherings, and on Friday they trekked into locally owned and big-box merchants in groups to take advantage of after-Thanksgiving deals.
The National Retail Federation projects a 4 percent jump in holiday sales this year, with the average shopper spending about $1,050.
With the economy pumping on all cylinders and jobs aplenty, most shoppers throughout Charleston said Friday they will spend more than that, and local retailers expect to see the increase in their bottom lines when the season wraps up in just a few weeks.
Dina Bentley of Johns Island is among those who plans to spend more on holiday purchases this year than the national average. In all, she will pay out between $1,200 and $1,500.
With two grown children and one granddaughter, the mental health therapist doesn't buy items just because they are on sale.
"I buy something because the kids need it," she said.
And who was she shopping for on Friday?
"Myself," she said with a chuckle while visiting Palmetto Moon lifestyles brand shop in Tanger Outlets in North Charleston, where hardly a parking space was available.
Also in the store was Kelly Fredlake of Washington, D.C, who was visiting relatives in Summerville and shopping with six extended family members across three generations.
"It's a family tradition," Fredlake said of the annual Black Friday outing.
Altogether, she believes she will spend close to $1,400 this year on holiday-related purchases.
At Target in West Ashley, first-grade teacher Angela Hinton of Charleston scoured the toy aisle, but she was just looking since her two sons, 5 and 3, have plenty of toys.
"They are getting iPads this year," she said of one of the items they will find under the Christmas tree.
Because of the electronics purchases, she and her husband, Brendan, expect to spend about $2,000, a little more than last year.
At Play It Again Sports in Mount Pleasant, town resident Kristi Dodd watched as her son selected a mountain bike for just over $400, a savings of about $120 off the regular price, she said.
But Dodd usually doesn't shop on Black Friday because she doesn't like the crowds.
"I usually have it all done before Halloween," the pharmaceutical sales rep said.
Her holiday outlay will be about $2,000 altogether this year.
At Jordan Lash men's clothing shop on King Street, Esperanza Vertucci of Palm Beach Gardens in Florida took a break from shopping and sat in one of store's armchairs. She and her son, Christopher, have been coming to Charleston for three years now for Thanksgiving, and they expect to be back next year.
They always stay at a hotel downtown, and she believes she will be splurging this year by spending up to $8,000 on holiday gifts and other purchases.
Much of it will be at the Apple store between Liberty and George streets, she said.
Men's store owner Jordan Lash, who opened at 6 a.m. Friday, trumpeted a healthy sales season so far.
"We had a truckload of people in here from 7:30-9 a.m.," Lash said. "We are going to be up 20 to 25 percent this week over last year."
He also said his online sales have been phenomenal.
Up the street at men's clothing store Grady Ervin, shopkeeper Chip Ervin also pointed to a good sales season.
"It's been very brisk," Ervin said of Friday's store transactions. "It's also been a blessing for us to have this little cool snap."
Overall, he said holiday sales could nudge up against double-digit growth.
"We are blessed to have a good economy in Charleston," Ervin said. "People are more upbeat and in a good mood."
He also said it pays to have a tailor on staff because a family visiting Charleston came in with their son and he needed a suit for a dinner Saturday night.
Ervin helped them select one and said the suit will be ready on Saturday.
"We try to help our customers any way that we can," he said.
Across the street at women's store Hampden, Jean Cecil Frick drives down from Columbia every year to visit relatives in Mount Pleasant but also to do her shopping in Charleston.
"King Street is a destination to me," Frick said after buying something for herself. "I like unique things and I like the personalized touch."
But because she has only eight people to buy items for Christmas, Frick doesn't expect to spend as much as most people.
Customers such as Frick help to drive Hampden's increasing sales. Shopkeeper Stacy Smallwood said sales at her newly expanded store will be up 30 percent in-store and 130 percent online this year.
"Over the past 12 years, Friday after Thanksgiving has typically been a slow day, but we have had more foot traffic than ever this year," she said.
Helping to deliver higher store sales, Smallwood believes, is her website.
"People see it online and come in and buy it," she said. "You can't get away from touching and feeling it, especially when it's clothes or shoes. People have to try it on to see if it fits."
And while Frick came to Charleston to shop, another Lowcountry resident found Columbia more to her liking.
Susan Smith of Islandton, in Colleton County. said she left home about 6 a.m. to drive up to Columbia’s Harbison shopping district, bringing along her small dog, a Chi-Poo named Baby Girl.
Despite the fact that Lowcountry malls are closer, she said she makes the trip up to shop where there are better stores.
“It’s got more variety, more options,” Smith said. “Our malls are not that great.”
Smith said she found some deals by mid-morning while at Columbiana, then took a break to get some water for the dog before shopping for more gifts for her family.
“I come up here all through the year,” Smith said.