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Traditional shopping day big in Valley

by Nancy Hamlett, staff reports

Nearly 100 shoppers braved the frigid morning temperatures to kick off the Christmas shopping season at Target at the north end of the Carson Valley on Friday.

Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the season, and retailers all over the nation roll out exceptional bargains to lure shoppers into the stores.

Waiting in line for Target to open at 7 a.m., there was excitement and anticipation in the air as shoppers stomped feet, rubbed hands and talked about the bargains waiting inside.

“We’ve only been waiting here for about 10 minutes. We hit Wal-Mart first,” said Sandy Schmidt, a Douglas County resident who was waiting in line with several friends and relatives. “We were there at 4:45 in the morning.”

Wal-Mart opened at 6 a.m.

“It was a mad house,” added Christina Harper. “People were yelling and shoving. It was crazy.”

“But we got some great bargains,” said Mary Geisler.

Christine Connelly and Denise Ortiz were in line closer to the doors.

“We did Wal-Mart, too, and I have the battle scars,” said Connelly as she rubbed her arm. “Someone stole my cart with stuff in it. There was yelling and screaming – this (Target) is more manageable. It isn’t a bad mob yet.”

Bonnie Bowen was the first in line at Target. When asked what time she arrived there, she said, “You don’t want to know, but I wanted to be first in line. My daughter saved up money for a scooter and I promised her that I would get her one.” Bowen smiled. “It’s just something for her. I’m done with all of my Christmas shopping.”

Bowen’s Christmas shopping may be done, but many people waiting in line were just getting started. Or, as Mary Schneider said, “Just getting into the grove.”

The doors opened promptly at 7 a.m., and within seconds, all of the shopping carts inside the store were gone. Shoppers dashed down aisles, some of them running to find that first Christmas bargain.

Pam DeBoer, director of logistics at Target, estimated between 75 and 100 people were in line when the doors opened.

“Last year, we had no one (standing in line) because they all went down the hill first for the freebies, and then they came back up. So we were ready more for this afternoon than we are for this morning. This turnout is a wonderful surprise,” DeBoer said.

DeBoer attributes the change in shopping pattern to a good ad campaign by Target that included many “hot” items for Christmas shopping.

“Everyone is going all out for scooters, toys, electronics – we’re excited and our customers are excited about this Christmas season,” said DeBoer.

At neighboring Home Depot, the pace was less frenzied. Without early morning door buster specials, it was business as usual for the nationwide home improvement chain.

“I’m here to pick up items for my ‘honey do’ list,” said Richard Bell, a Gardnerville resident. “My wife does all of the Christmas shopping. If she wants to get me something special, though, she’ll come here.”

In Gardnerville and Minden, the pace is slower; however, the anticipation for a busy Christmas season is strong.

Carol Betrue has been a cashier at Ace Hardware on Industrial Way in Gardnerville for 11 years. She said that Friday morning business was a little heavier than normal.

“We have a flier in effect and people were in shopping for Christmas gifts first thing in the morning,” said Betrue. Ace Hardware opened at 8 a.m.

“I’ve seen a lot of Christmases, and judging from the start of it, this will be a good Christmas season,” said Betrue.

For main street stores in Gardnerville, the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas shopping season, but not necessarily the busiest day of the year.

Valley Do-It Center ran several after-Thanksgiving specials; however, Scott Hemsath said that although Friday’s early morning shoppers were enthusiastic, the brunt of the Christmas business comes in December.

“December is one of our better months – however, we won’t see a huge increase in sales until the week before Christmas,” said Hemsath. “That’s when we will extend our hours to accommodate Christmas shoppers.”

Becky Soderman, owner of Classical Glass, didn’t really know what to expect on Friday. However, with the good weather and the store’s new location, Soderman was excited about the start of the Christmas season.

“It’s just an exciting time, with people showing off the town to visiting friends and family – a lot of people are dedicated to shopping in town, more and more so,” said Soderman. “People take pride in doing shopping locally with friendly faces and the chance to see friends and neighbors. It’s more of a social event.”

Joyce’s Jewelry, Gifts and Antiques dedicates the day after Thanksgiving for one of their two annual sales.

“We are anticipating a huge day, but a shopping day, not necessarily a purchasing day,” said Norie Jenkins.

This year, Jenkins expects more people to shop locally and not leave the Valley.

“With the new shopping area at the north end of the Valley, it captures people,” said Jenkins. “Why go any further? We have it all here.”