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Christmas nears, but shoppers are far from done

Bonnie Preuss of Belview, a customer at Dunlavy's General Store in downtown Willmar, looks through merchandise Tuesday as she does some last-minute Christmas shopping. Local shoppers spent the day in a mad dash for last-minute gifts ahead of a major snowstorm that could hit the area today. Tribune photo by Linda Vanderwerf

The nature of the shoppers in Willmar started to change Tuesday. "Today's the first day of the season I've noticed a sense of urgency," said Pam Klein, co-owner of Ken's Casuals in downtown Willmar.

Customers were coming into the men's clothing store with an idea of what they want and they seemed to be in more of a hurry, she said.

"It's been real steady today, and I suspect we'll see the same thing tomorrow," she added.

Last-minute shoppers sometimes have a purpose, she said. It could be someone visiting who does their shopping when they arrive, or it could be someone with an unexpected guest coming. At Dunlavy's General Store downtown, Tuesday was busy, too.

"It's been a real rush, rush, rush all morning," owner Myron Dunlavy said. "I think people are panicking with the weather forecast."

Forecasters are predicting a major snowstorm expected to begin this evening and last over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Dunlavy noticed the arrival of more male shoppers at his store on Tuesday, which offers a variety of gifts, including jewelry, glassware and decorating items.

"They're going after what they think their wives will like," he said, and they like his offer of free gift-wrapping.

So far this week, Dunlavy said, he's sold "a little bit of everything." One man bought salt and pepper shakers Tuesday morning for his wife who collects them. Someone drove all the way from Hector to look at the selection of Western items.

At the Kandi Mall, the Fan Zone was also seeing a steady business. "Everything Vikings has been going real well," said owner Rodney Staska. "It helps when you've got a winning football team on the field."

By contrast, items featuring the hapless Minnesota Timberwolves haven't sold as well.

This week, many customers have also stopped to talk about the Vikings, who lost their third game Sunday night, he said.

Because so many people in the area have moved here from Texas, Cowboys items have sold very well, too, Staska said.

Business will probably pick up more today, since students will be in the first day of their holiday break, Staska said.

On Thursday, he'll be open until 4 and expects to see "typical guy shoppers" looking for last-minute buys.

The business owners said they believe this year will turn out to be a good one for them.

Klein said this shopping season has been a little better than last year and a good one overall. People seem to be willing to buy a second item or to be open to spending a little more than they'd planned, she said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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