Reports from local merchants about their holiday sales are as varied as the merchandise they carry, yet many agree that what might have been a dismal month was saved by a flurry of last-minute shoppers.
Linda Booker, owner of On the Shelf bookstore in downtown Craig, said her December sales were down 10 percent compared to last year, while Nadine Daszkiewicz, owner of The Kitchen Shop, said this year's sales were better than average.
"I heard several people say they were shopping locally this year," Daszkiewicz said.
Downtown streets were deserted by 3 p.m. on the afternoon of Dec. 24 last year, she said, but still saw people roaming around at 4:30 p.m. year.
"A lot of people seemed to be doing a lot of last-minute shopping," she said. "It was very, very unusual. It's like Christmas snuck up on everyone this year -- like they didn't expect it."
Booker confirmed, saying she was 30 percent below last year's December revenue on Dec. 15 and gained 20 percent in the nine days before Christmas.
"The last week was a huge rush. It really made up for a slow month," she said.
Booker attributes slow sales to a lagging national economy and rising Internet sales.
"In Craig people already perceive that we don't have anything here," she said. "People aren't seeing what we have here first before going out of town."
Store manager Derek Zuver said holiday sales at the Craig Kmart were about average -- something the company expected following a smaller-than-average advertising campaign preceding the holiday.
"It wasn't spectacular by any means and that's kind of what we planned for," he said.
He did say that the days following Christmas posted higher sales than last year.
Nationally, the International Council of Shopping Centers said sales are up just under 4 percent compared to last November and December -- less than the forecast 4.5 percent.
State economists expected an increase in tune with the rate of inflation -- about 1.7 percent following the loss of 76,300 Colorado jobs in 2003 and 2004.
Lori Romney, owner of Sweetwater Trading Company, hasn't compiled her final figures yet, but is guessing that she was one of the retailers who will show an increase from last year's sales.
"We were pretty busy," she said. "I thought a lot of people did shop locally."
Romney did comment on the last-minute rush, saying her store also benefited.
She noted that her last three customers on Christmas Eve were men, "the same as last year."
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at email@example.com.