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Sales bring out shoppers

Sat., Nov. 24, 2007

In the world of post-Thanksgiving shopping, even the early bird bargain-hunter sometimes comes up empty-handed.

Kim Collins, of Spokane, had already missed out on an MP3 player marked down $50 at Shopko when she filed through the doors to the north Spokane Kmart as it opened at 6 a.m. Friday.

“They were gone by the time I entered the door,” Collins said. “I was ticked.”

Collins, 42, jogged to the automotive department, finding a keyless car starter from her list as men snatched up $40-off cordless drills nearby. An inflatable snowman lawn decoration she wanted was out of stock. And after a look at the line clogging the electronics section, where she had planned to buy three DVD players for her sons, she decided to steer clear.

“I don’t think I want to go there,” she said.

Some experts have predicted gloomier holiday sales amid escalating gas prices, higher heating bills and a volatile stock market. While some shoppers said they’re trimming back this year, many customers lined up before dawn at area retailers on Black Friday for a chance at door-buster sales – especially on electronics.

“I dreamt that I didn’t get up until 7:15 and missed all the sales,” said Leslie Naccarato. That would have been a nightmare, according to the St. Maries woman, who clutched a handful of ads as she stood in line for Wal-Mart’s 5 a.m. opening in Post Falls.

On her shopping list: three portable DVD players and a laptop. “I’m saving $350,” she said.

Naccarato spent Thanksgiving in Priest Lake. She and her daughter-in-law got up at 2:45 a.m., hitting the darkened road for the 90-minute drive to Wal-Mart. Her husband declined to make the trip.

“He said, ‘I’d rather shoot myself,’ ” Naccarto said, chuckling.

According to the National Federation of Retailers, the typical adult will spend an average of $619 buying Christmas presents for family, friends and co-workers this year, plus an additional $106 treating themselves.

Naccarto figured that she’d spend $750 on Friday. And that was just the kickoff to her holiday shopping.

“I have five kids and seven grandkids,” she said. “We’re a big Christmas family.”

In north Spokane, a couple hundred people huddled in a line stretching around the Circuit City parking lot for its 5 a.m. opening. Eager shoppers snapped up armfuls of DVDs, console games and flash memory cards.

Pullman resident Nate Pike, 17, and his family were second in line, having arrived about 5 p.m. Thursday. He planned to save $600 to $700, and his list included a laptop, MP3 player and flash drives.

“They’ve got really good deals on them,” he said.

George Burden purchased a 50-inch TV and a computer.

“We’ve decided to cut back on our own (spending), but it’s a great deal, so it’s kind of worth spending a few chilly hours out here just to get it,” said Burden, 42.

Shane Martin, 22, of Spokane, said his employer was paying him to wait for two high-definition televisions for the office. Would he be up that early shopping otherwise?

“Absolutely not,” he said.

The new Kohl’s department store at NorthTown Mall had an estimated 400 people in line for its 4 a.m. opening, said manager Kirstie Best. Traffic Friday morning was “as good if not better” than at other Kohl’s stores where she’s spent five Christmas seasons, she said.

Popular items included stereos, iPod accessories and KitchenAid appliances, she said.

“This is really great because, you know, they keep talking about how down the market is and things like that,” Best said. “I think people are still out there shoppin’.”

At JC Penney at NorthTown – which opened at 4 a.m., an hour earlier than last year – traffic into the store was stronger than last year, said manager Katrina Green. Earlier hours paid off, she said.

“We had predicted a small gain – a small, single-digit gain,” said Green. “We’re really pleased right now – really, really happy.”

Darla Shuart, 44, of Deer Park, and two companions wore matching pink, sequined Santa hats to identify each other. It was her first time out early on Black Friday, and she had already spent about $300 in the mall.

At Target in Coeur d’Alene, the line of shoppers snaked around the building and far into the parking lot. Red-vested security guards kept latecomers from stampeding the doors for the 6 a.m. opening. Once inside, however, the decorous line quickly dissolved. Customers were swept along on a wave of competitive buying.

“God, it just makes you want to grab something off the shelf,” one man said. “I’ll end up buying something I don’t want.”

Dennis Wheeler, of Coeur d’Alene, purchased a 37-inch flat-screen TV at Target for $549, saving $250. “It’s for football,” he said. “I’m after presents for myself.”

Wheeler, who runs a construction firm, was among the minority of men in the early morning crowd. Two friends came with him. “We’re here for moral support,” explained Scott Jensen.

Rising costs for food, gas and heat were on Barb Burns’ mind as she shopped Friday morning. The 39-year-old Spokane woman had spent about $500 after four hours, but said she was budgeting more carefully than last year.

Michelle Boe-Ballard, 19, of Spokane, hoped to stretch her dollars by hitting sales at Kmart.

“This year I’m probably spending a lot more than I normally would, just because I’ve got more family members coming into my family,” Boe-Ballard said as she looked for a pillowcase and blanket set for a little girl. “I have exactly 18 people to shop for. I’ve got half of them already done.”

Ray Edmonds and his wife, Ginger, stayed home Friday. The retired Spokane couple plans to send $15 checks to each of their 18 grandchildren this year, and $20 checks to their six children and spouses.

“We’re cutting down because we’re getting older, and my life insurance costs are going up,” said Ray Edmonds, 76.

Other costs are going up as well. The Edmonds’ heating bill has jumped about 40 percent, hitting $250 per month during the cold season. The couple also spends about $100 per month on gasoline, even though they both drive Hyundais that get 30-plus miles to the gallon.

“I’m sure that other people who are worker bees are feeling it even more,” Ray Edmonds said.

Rena Perez, of Spokane, also stayed home. Last week, she stood in line to buy a Nintendo Wii video game console for her boyfriend and his daughters. It was her last gift.

“I’ve always planned carefully,” said the 29-year-old single mother, who is also saving to purchase her first home.

Perez spent about $600 shopping for 15 people. She started in August to take advantage of sales.

“I always try to get it done early,” she said. “That way, if I see a really good deal on something closer to Christmas, I don’t feel bad buying it for myself, because I’ve taken care of everyone else.”


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