Thursday, 10:24 AM
By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe Staff
Marie Ruiz used the glow of a cellphone screen to study a map of the Framingham Wal-Mart early this morning, as she and hundreds of other shoppers waited for the store to open its doors at 5 a.m.
"Toys are on one end, and clothes are on the other," Ruiz said. "So I've got my mother here."
When the doors opened, shoppers -- who began lining up at 9:30 p.m. Thursday -- rushed into the store, scooping up flat-screen televisions, digital picture frames, and GPS units.
At big-box stores, outlets, malls, and department stores across the country and in Greater Boston, retailers opened their doors well before dawn on Black Friday, offering bargains and other events in an attempt to lure shoppers facing high gas prices, exorbitant heating oil bills, and a slumping housing market.
In Greater Boston, crowds of deal-hungry holiday shoppers lined up extra early at big-box retailers and outlet stores to snag deeply discounted "doorbusters," and later in the day trickled into malls and department stores that didn't offer the same blockbuster bargains.
The annual rite of retail kicked off a holiday shopping season that the National Retail Federation is projecting will have the slowest growth in five years. The Washington.-based trade group forecasts holiday sales will rise just 4 percent this year, to $474.5 billion, falling below the 10-year average, and the slowest increase in sales since 2002 when sales grew 1.3 percent.
"Though retailers are anticipating a challenging holiday season, they are encouraged by the enthusiasm their Black Friday sales generated," National Retail Federation president and chief executive Tracy Mullin said in a statement.
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