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      Midnight Shopping Madness

      And they are off! The 2011 holiday shopping season officially began at the stroke of midnight Friday.

      This is the first year big name retailers decided to open their doors this early, and the eager shoppers lined up outside Kohls in Marquette Township welcomed the change.

      "I did my stretching, I've been working out a little while I've been here, keeping myself warm," said midnight shopper Jennifer Marietti. "I've got some coffee!"

      "I'm super excited, it's my first Black Friday and I came with my friend and were going to get lots of good deals!" exclaimed Hollie Ball.

      Store managers inside seemed to have the same level of enthusiam, and how it translates into dollars this season.

      "I think retailers generally are optimistic about the holiday season upcoming," said Brett Coleman, manager of Kohls in Marquette Township. "Forecasts from the traditional experts say they expect the shoppers to be out in full force."

      Shoppers picked up deals and discounts on everything from jewelry to electronics in stores throughout Marquette Township, and beyond.

      Economists expect over 150 million shoppers hit the stores nationwide Friday, spending upwards of 27 billion dollars.

      "What happens on Black Friday is a pulse as to what to expect over the holiday season," explained Tawni Ferrarini, an economics professor at Northern Michigan University. "If the turn out is strong and the activity is high then people look forward to a strong retail season."

      While boosting the economy is important, economists also caution spenders to budget appropriately for the coming year.

      "You need to plan, you need to look forward. So spend, but spend strategically over the holiday season," said Ferrarini.

      It remains to be seen if shoppers adhere to that self-restraint, with the holidays only a month away.