Taylor Bruce, of Broomfield, spent Friday morning shopping at F.M. Light & Sons in downtown Steamboat Springs. Businesses in Steamboat Springs reported strong sales to kick off the holiday shopping season.

Photo by John F. Russell

Taylor Bruce, of Broomfield, spent Friday morning shopping at F.M. Light & Sons in downtown Steamboat Springs. Businesses in Steamboat Springs reported strong sales to kick off the holiday shopping season.

Black Friday brings relief

Local retailers report strong turnout on traditional shopping day

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— Whether you were on Wall Street in New York or Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs, this year's Black Friday provided a bright spot after months of dark economic news.

Whether the respite will be brief or long-lived remains to be seen, but retailers throughout Steamboat said Friday afternoon that they were feeling optimistic after a strong day of sales.

Nationally, the S&P Retail Index decreased more than 4 points Friday to 262.75, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 102.43 points, or 1.2 percent, to 8829.04. It was the fifth straight day of gains for the Dow, which finished the week up 16.9 percent. It finished the month down 5.3 percent.

Black Friday is the nickname for the day after Thanksgiving and is viewed as the traditional start to the holiday shopping season. Its name is a reference to retailers beginning to turn a profit and going from "the red" to "the black."

According to MarketWatch, "Retailers are pegged to have their worst holiday season in years after posting their worst October results on record as frugality became fashion for shoppers across the board." But many Steamboat retailers Friday reported sales that mostly were comparable to Black Friday a year ago. Employees at three stores that were visited - Sports Authority, Celebrations and F.M. Light & Sons - predicted they would do better than the same day last year.

At about 2:20 p.m. Friday, Sandy Pugh, owner of the Celebrations store in Central Park Plaza, said she already had sold twice as much as Black Friday 2007, when her store was in Riverside Plaza.

"Today's been pretty good. There's lots of guests in town," Pugh said. "I was shocked. I didn't know, with the economy and everything."

Gary Butler, of Fort Collins, and Terry Driskell, of Kansas City, were among those who didn't let a down economy stop them from shopping Friday.

"It hasn't deterred it much," Butler said while looking at fellow shoppers up and down Lincoln Avenue.

"I'm going to buy some sweatshirts somewhere," Driskell said.

Crowds around town

Retail comparisons with last year's Black Friday are somewhat problematic, because the Steamboat Ski Area had to delay its opening 10 days in 2007 and was not open for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Driskell, Butler and their family members are among the tourists in town this weekend to ski. The local resort community expects about 4,000 guests this weekend.

At Sears on Shield Drive, however, owner Thaine Mahanna said Friday most of his customers were locals.

"It's been really good," Mahanna said about business on Friday. "We're all guardedly cautious about what's to come, but this is a business that does pretty well no matter what. People need appliances."

Mahanna said there was a crowd of people waiting outside Sears when he opened the doors at 5 a.m. Friday. Staples General Manager Randy Staggs experienced the same, and he said there were 25 to 30 people waiting in his store's parking lot.

"It's been pretty good actually," said Staggs, who guessed sales would be only slightly less than Black Friday last year. "We didn't know what to expect with the economy and everything."

Staggs and Mahanna said their corporations were offering more sales and deeper discounts in an effort to lure worried shoppers.

"Sears as a company is very aggressive right now," Mahanna said.

Other stores stuck to business as usual.

"We're just going about it the same way we've always done it," F.M. Light & Sons sales clerk Marge Bunzel said aboubt the century-old store, which is offering a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale throughout the weekend.

At Ambiente in Torian Plum Plaza, owner Vail Kozatch said three sets of people had visited the store by 2 p.m. Although none of the visitors purchased anything, Kozatch said she was encouraged.

"Usually there's a little more traffic" on Black Friday, she said. "But compared to the last few months, it's active."

Explanations varied for the strong retail showing in the midst of a down economy.

"It's delicious. It's been quite busy, " Ty Jaggers, store manager at RadioShack in Central Park Plaza, said about sales Friday. "Steamboat doesn't get affected by the economy. We get affected by no snowfall."

Jaggers did notice that, more than usual, shoppers seemed to prefer sale items to regularly priced ones.

Jenny Wall, owner of Moose Mountain Trading Co. on Lincoln Avenue, credited a Mainstreet Steamboat Springs holiday shopping campaign.

"It's : marvelous," Wall said about business Friday while helping customers in her crowded store. "Everybody seems to be embracing the shop locally program, and we're delighted."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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