Retailers pleased with 'Black Friday'

WILLMAR -- Never mind looking for snow or Santa Claus, if there's a line outside of a store's front door, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

WILLMAR -- Never mind looking for snow or Santa Claus, if there's a line outside of a store's front door, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Holiday shoppers started assembling in front of Willmar's Best Buy store around 10 a.m. Thursday morning, waiting for holiday sales on televisions and computers when the store opened at 5 a.m. Friday. By 3 a.m. Friday, Best Buy staffers were handing out the tickets the shoppers needed to buy the goods, according to Randy Buchanan, customer experience manager.

Those standing in line braved temperatures in the teens overnight, but they were somewhat fortified by a taste of home delivered before night fell on First Street.

"Their parents had dropped off Thanksgiving Day dinner," Buchanan said. "It was in Tupperware."

Around 11 a.m. Friday, the store was still bustling with activity as shoppers continued seeking Black Friday deals.


Smaller items that are popular are mp3 players and global positioning navigational systems, Buchanan said. Play Station 3 and Xbox were also high on shoppers' lists, but no Nintendo Wii systems were available at the Willmar store.

Not that the local Best Buy is any different than other retailers, Buchanan explained. There just isn't enough supply of the interactive game system to go around. The store does get sporadic shipments, so customers need to keep calling.

"They are just as tough to get as last year," Buchanan said.

This year marks the second holiday season for Best Buy in Willmar, and Buchanan says the Black Friday anticipation is even bigger this year than last for the Twin Cities-based retailer.

"We have the best customers in the world," he said. "They will wait almost 24 hours."

Mixed expecations

The holiday shopping season is starting earlier and earlier, both on the calendar and the clock. Around the nation and region, some stores opened at midnight to begin the all-important holiday shopping season. Last year, American shoppers spent $456.2 billion in retail sales, accounting for 19.59 percent of industry sales, according to statistics from the National Retail Federation.

The federation is predicting that holiday sales for 2007 will be 4 percent higher than 2006. So, if the federation is correct, holiday sales will be $474.5 billion. The growth could be the lowest increase in shopping activity since 2002, when sales only increased 1.3 percent.


Those data conflict with the 22nd annual survey of holiday spending by the American Research Group, in which the average shopper says he is going to spend $859 this year, down 5 percent from the $907 spent last year.

Staggered start

There was a line of shoppers waiting for the doors at Herberger's to open at 5 a.m., according to store manager Gordon Lindblad.

"We are pleased with the traffic," he said around noon, noting that shoppers were still -- at that point -- taking advantage of the many door buster sales and a $10 coupon that was good until 1 p.m. "At this point sales are up over last year."

The stores in the Kandi Mall did somewhat of a "staggered" start for opening the doors for shoppers: J.C. Penney at 4 a.m., Herberger's at 5 a.m. and K-Mart at 6 a.m.

Jeanette Jacobson, manager of Kandi Krafts and Kollectibles, noticed a skittering of shoppers down the mall's corridor as the neighboring K-Mart opened.

The hot items at the multifaceted store were decorating items with either stars or angels, or Christmas items, she said. Kandi Krafts prides itself on unique, personalized items.

"We have a loyal following," Jacobson said. The handmade items are made by local artists who can personalize items for shoppers. "They appreciate something that's made locally, not in China."


Patriotic items, such as a praying soldier silhouette for outdoor display, are still popular, she added. The silhouette stands about 30 inches tall. The soldier is bowing his head before a cross.

"The American flag and soldier items are striking a chord with folks, especially for those who will not have their soldier home this year," she said.

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