Poole, who was with some family members, arrived at the toy store shortly after 6:30 p.m. Thursday. By midnight the line stretched from in front of Toys "R" Us and adjoining stores and around the parking lot, ending near the stop light at Silver Springs Road and William Street.
Management handed out tickets to the first 100 households in line who wanted the opportunity to purchase the Zhu Zhu hamsters, a small interactive toy hamster that has become one of the most sought-after gift items this holiday shopping season.
"Knowing that I'm getting one of the hottest items of the year is pretty cool," Poole said. "It's like I have to scream 'woo-hoo!'"
Like others who braved the freezing temperatures and long lines, Poole said Black Friday has become a tradition for her family.
While Poole arrived early Thursday evening at Toys "R" Us, another store had shoppers in line by 11 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. Customers pitched tents and settled into lawn chairs at Best Buy in hopes of having the opportunity to purchase computers, televisions, video game systems and movies at significant savings.
Best Buy employees handed out tickets at 3 a.m. Thursday for certain items, and by 5 a.m. the first customer entered the store.
Justin Day, who arrived in line around 5 p.m. Thursday with some friends, had a ticket to purchase an LCD HDTV.
"This is quite an upgrade, considering my other television was a standard one I got at a garage sale," Day said. "Christmas Eve will be my 16th birthday, so I'm making this a great one."
Black Friday is known as the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, when large crowds pack stores and push them into the black. Some stores rely on the shopping weekend for as much as 40 percent of annual sales and profits.
With unemployment at 10.2 percent and consumers with jobs watching every penny, shoppers like Jessie Davis said they took advantage of blockbuster deals over the weekend to save as much money as possible on Christmas gifts.
"In the past I would never have dreamed of coming into all this madness so soon," said Davis, who had a shopping cart full of DVDs, a Barbie Jeep and Robo Jam video game. "This year it's more about stretching every dollar."
Area retailers said they were pleased with the turnout.
"This weekend seems like it gets shoppers in a great mood," said Charles McGinty, manager of CP McGinty Jewelers in Cape Girardeau. "It's good to see people out and about on the holiday weekend. When the holiday season hits, our sales increase almost instantaneously."
Mike Shivelbine, co-owner of Shivelbine Music and Sound in Cape Girardeau, said that while he believes the big-box stores benefit the most from Thanksgiving weekend, he said guitar and television sales were doing well.
"I expect that we'll see more activity during the next few weeks, which always seems to be the case for us," he said.
Stereo One in Cape Girardeau reported sales were slightly up compared to Thanksgiving weekend in 2008. Owner Jon Selby said televisions, car audio systems and Blu-ray disc players were the best-selling items at his store.
"We did better than expected," Selby said. "The bad news that the economy is behaving badly may be behind us and the consumer may be spending yet again."
Robert Petch, owner of Nearly Perfect Shoes, said sales at its locations in Cape Girardeau, Dexter, Mo., Jackson and Poplar Bluff, Mo., saw an overall increase from Thanksgiving weekend 2008. Women's boots and athletic apparel were among the store's best-selling items, Petch said.
"Some of our out-of-town customers helped boost our sales," Petch said. "Saturday wasn't as big as Black Friday, but we came out pretty good for the weekend."
209 S. Kingshighway, Cape Girardeau, MO
1985 E. Jackson Blvd., Jackson, MO
345 S. Kingshighway, Cape Girardeau, MO
210 S. Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, MO
535 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO
117 N. Main St., Cape Girardeau, MO'