Shoppers undeterred by snow

WILLMAR -- An early morning snowfall didn't stop bargain hunters and Christmas shoppers from lining up Friday morning from the end of the parking lot to the door of Menards in Willmar.

WILLMAR -- An early morning snowfall didn't stop bargain hunters and Christmas shoppers from lining up Friday morning from the end of the parking lot to the door of Menards in Willmar.

"People were waiting to get in'' when the store opened at 6 a.m., said Brian Kath, Menards general manager. The 14 checkout aisles were humming at mid-morning.

Kath said everyone from children to adults seemed to be in a pleasant mood.

"We haven't had too many unhappy guests. But everybody seems to be pretty chipper. It seems like everybody's got their own gift they're going to hunt for, and kids go throughout the store, too, and go pick something up for Mom and Dad.''

Electronics such as DVD recorders and portable DVD players, battery jump-starters and tools were among the popular items being snapped up during Menards second Christmas in Willmar.


Kmart manager Patti Kelley said crowds were good when the store opened for the five-hour specials at 7 a.m. Thursday and at 6 a.m. Friday. She didn't think the snow kept shoppers away.

"I think sometimes that helps keep people in town, too,'' she said.

Kelley advises shoppers to watch the dates and the times on the newspaper advertisements through today. She said some people misread the ads and were upset when they couldn't buy what they wanted.

The weather may be the reason business at J.C. Penney was slightly below expectation by 10:30 a.m., said manager Roger Thorson. "It started out pretty well, then the snow started to fly,'' Thorson said. But he hoped the rest of the day would pick up.

"When we have bad weather like we do today, you're bound to have a sales loss. But we've spread out our marketing to try to offset that a little bit as far as the corporation is concerned,'' he said.

Three inches of snow fell Friday in Willmar.

The weather contributed to several fender-benders in the area, none of them serious. Willmar police responded to minor crashes Friday morning at the Kandi Mall, on 19th Avenue Southwest and on U.S. Highway 12 East.

An ambulance was called to a collision Friday morning at U.S. Highway 71 and Minnesota Highway 9, west of New London; minor injuries were reported.


The forecast calls for slightly warmer temperatures this weekend. Today will be partly cloudy with a daytime high around 35 and lows from 25 to 30 degrees.

A 70 percent chance of more snow or rain is predicted for Sunday. Highs Sunday will be 35 to 40 degrees.

Retailers are finding that with the onset of colder weather, outerwear sales are doing well.

"We sell a lot of blue jeans, believe it or not, this time of year. Christmas is a big peak for denim for us, in men's and women's,'' said Thorson of JCPenney. "Kids' clothing peaks now, too. And basics ... are doing well.''

Clothing, electronics and toys were popular at Target, said Liz Thompson, executive team leader of human resources and guest services. People were standing in line when the store, which was closed Thursday, reopened at 6 a.m. Friday.

"It's been crazy busy, but very fun,'' said Thompson.

Now that the season's second snowfall has arrived, people may be more interested in buying winter clothing, according to Randy Klein, manager of Holm Brothers Sport Shop and Hardware. Last year, he said, cold weather really didn't arrive until the week before Christmas.

"People are getting a little antsy,'' he said. "After four years of mild winters through Christmas, I think this is the year people will have to pick up new boots, socks, coats, hats. I think it's here this year.''


Holm Brothers has been in Willmar since 1979 and Klein has been with the store for 10 years. He said competing against the "big box'' stores is always a challenge.

"You try to catch your own little niche of items they don't carry,'' he said.

"Customer service is a big thing. You can be right up to the front by the door, walk in and get out in a hurry. You don't have to stand, park way out in the end of the parking lot and come out the opposite end of the door and have a block to walk to get back to your car.''

-- Staff Writer Anne Polta contributed to this story.

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