A sluggish economy didn't stop shoppers from around the region from gathering outside stores across the Rogue Valley early today for the traditional launch of the holiday shopping season.

A sluggish economy didn't stop shoppers from as far away as Washington and California from gathering outside stores across the Rogue Valley early today for the traditional launch of the holiday shopping season.

Retailers around the area attempted to lure shoppers on the day known as Black Friday with special deals and longer hours.

Courteny Tucker, 30, and Niece Whaley, 28, of Grants Pass were first in line outside Kohl's department store at the Rogue Valley Mall at 2 a.m. The store opened at 4 a.m.

The pair came prepared with walkie-talkies, leftover stuffing sandwiches, chairs and blankets for their second year of Black Friday shopping together.

The bargains could have been better, said Tucker. There's "not as great of deals this year," she said.

Barbara Waler, 48, working her third Black Friday at the store, acted something like a traffic director and price checker all at once as shoppers searched and bumped their way through Kohl's.

"It's just as busy, if not busier," said Waler. "We didn't know what to expect."

Black Friday received its name because it historically was the day when a surge of shoppers helped stores break into profitability for the full year. But this year, amid a deteriorating economy, the power of this landmark day for the retail industry could be fading.

Still, while it isn't a predictor of holiday sales, the day after Thanksgiving is an important barometer of people's willingness to spend for the rest of the season. And particularly this year, analysts will dissect how the economy is shaping buying habits in a season that many analysts predict could see a contraction in spending from a year ago.

Last year, the Thanksgiving shopping weekend of Friday through Sunday accounted for about 10 percent of overall holiday sales, according to ShopperTrak RCT Corp.

The group hasn't released estimates for Black Friday sales this year, but experts believe it will remain one of the season's biggest selling days.

— Dawn Hatchard, for the Mail Tribune, and the Associated Press