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Bargain Hunters Brave Pre-dawn Darkness

At dawn, they shopped.

Bargain-hunters woke up bright and early to head to stores and malls as the holiday shopping season opened today.

They were hoping to take advantage of early-bird specials on hot toys and electronic items like DVD players.

In a scene that played out across the country, dozens of people lined up in the dark and early morning chill at Wal-Mart in Sonora, before the discounter opened its doors at 6 a.m.

Despite the crowds that showed up for the specials, analysts believe consumers will be tight-fisted this year. The nation’s largest merchants have protected themselves with lean inventories so they won´t have mounds of leftovers on December 26th. But stores might also have the opposite problem – finding themselves with not enough merchandise if consumers decide to splurge.

The last holiday shopping season was the worst in at least a decade. And some polls suggest this one won´t be all that much better. An ABC News poll shows consumers plan to spend about $830 each this year. That’s up a bit from last year and about the same as the year before.

A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll says people will look to spend about $770 on average – which is down a little from last year.

About one in five in the Gallup poll say they´ll spend more this year. Nearly a quarter said they´ll spend less. And more than half say they´ll keep the spending about equal.

Both polls had error margins of plus or minus three percentage points.