Jingle all the way

High sales volume a gift for businesses

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Craig retailers got what they wanted for Christmas -- ringing cash registers.

Some shop owners speculate that weather and soaring gasoline prices kept shoppers in Craig, contributing to holiday sales that exceeded expectations.

"I can't give you numbers, but it was crazy," Kmart store manager Rick Kroman said.

Although Friday was one of the store's busiest days, most of last week was good for area businesses, retailers said.

"Every day last week was just fabulous," said Nadine Dasz--kiewicz, owner of the Kitchen Shop. "It was a lot steadier than normal. Maybe that was because people are staying in town. Monday and Tuesday were almost as big as Saturday."

It's too soon for official sales tallies. But retailers already know that the holiday shopping season's strong start never slowed.

Nearly 145 million consumers hit stores and shopped on the Internet the day after Thanks--giving, according to the Nat----ional Retail Federation. That's about 12 million more holiday shoppers than reported in 2004, according to the federation.

The day after Thanksgiving, known by retailers as Black Friday, is considered the official launch of the holiday shopping season. It's called Black Friday because retailers are said to move out of the "red" and into the "black."

If more consumers were shopping, they also were spending more. Each consumer spent 21.9 percent more than what they did last year, the federation reported.

Retail trackers expected total holiday spending to exceed $439 billion.

At Kmart, electronics and toys were the busiest departments this holiday season, with video game systems, such as PlayStation and Xbox, and TVs topping the list of big sellers, Kroman said.

Kmart sales mirrored national trends. According to the National Retail Federation, 36.7 percent of shoppers purchased electronics Thanksgiving weekend, up from the 31.2 percent last year, making it the fastest-growing purchase category.

Many shoppers -- 49.2 percent -- went home with clothing and accessories, followed closely by the 46.7 percent who purchased books, compact discs, DVDs, videos and video games, the survey found.

Daszkiewicz said she sold out of "Holiday Specs," paper eyeglasses that made Christmas lights appear to be pictures. Cookie cutters were also popular gifts, she said.

Murdoch's Ranch and Home store doesn't have a previous year with which to compare sales. The store opened in August. But Marianne Maigatter, the store's manager, said holiday sales were phenomenal.

"Murdoch's has been a very nice asset to Craig," she said. "It's definitely increased sales tax."

Maigatter said sales were at their highest during the store's Dec. 15 "Ladies' Night." The store took 20 percent off merchandise, served appetizers and distributed gift bags.

"This place was a madhouse," Maigatter said. "It was insane."

Although there was a race for merchandise, which was quickly scooped from the shelves, people were patient with the long lines the holiday rush created, she said.

Today, area store employees are busy restocking shelves and handling returns, though those are fewer than in past years, Kroman said.

"That's a good sign, too," he said.

Others are recovering from the busy week.

"I'm looking forward to next weekend because I'm taking it off," Daszkiewicz said. "I need some sleep."

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