Dalton area shoppers were ready for the Christmas shopping season to start.

"We opened at 6 a.m. and there was a pretty long line outside of people ready to shop," said Andrew Lovingood, store director for Dalton's Academy Sports + Outdoors on Shugart Road. "It has remained busy all morning."

Dalton resident Jackie Monroe was pushing a small bicycle across the packed parking lot outside the store. She said it is a Christmas present for her son.

"It's his first bike," she said. "He's been asking for it for several months. I know he's going to love it."

Lovingood said bicycles had been selling well as had trampolines. In fact, as he spoke, store employees had a couple of trampolines lined up at the door for customers to pick up.

Dalton resident Joe Welch had a basketball hoop he said was a present for his grandson.

Lovingood said the store was also doing a brisk business in fleece clothing.

"This is the season people start buying winter clothes and fleece is very popular," he said.

Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, has traditionally been the start of the Christmas shopping season. But the National Retail Federation reports that many shoppers began their Christmas shopping early this year, with many shopping online. Still, the group reports that 165.3 million people were expected to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, with 114.6 million expected to shop on Black Friday. The group reports that those who plan to shop in stores say they appreciate the social aspect of shopping.

LaFayette resident Kristen Smith said she prefers shopping in a store.

"Something might look good online," she said. "But what does it look like when you try it on? Is it well made? You don't really know unless you can see it and touch it."

Smith was shopping at Belk in the Dalton Mall. She said that despite the large number of customers, all of the staff had been helpful and had time to help her out.

Belk store manager Lupe James said business had been very busy, and "cold weather" clothing had been selling especially well.

"People are buying cold weather clothes for the entire family," she said.

Dalton resident Gina Gillespie was shopping for children's clothing at Belk.

"It seems like I buy my kids new clothes at Christmas every year and by about October they have outgrown them," she laughed.

Across town, Nancy Carrera had just come out of Kohl's on Shugart Road.

"I bought clothes, lots of clothes. I bought perfume," she said. "But I probably shouldn't tell you anything more. People might read this and figure out what I'm getting them."

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