Kmart was swarming with eager customers Thursday who were looking for good deals and to avoid today's shopping rush.
"It's the thing to do -- trying to beat Black Friday," Thanksgiving shopper Jeff Patterson said as he loaded two 20-inch TVs into the bed of his truck outside Kmart.
"There's always deals on Thanksgiving," he said.
Although the store was a bit hectic Thursday, managers said they expect today to be just plain crazy.
Retailers refer to the day after Thanksgiving as "Black Friday," one of the busiest shopping days of the year. "Black" refers to the net profits retailers make off sales on this day, making up for the red, or net losses, from the previous months.
Although businesses have the most customer traffic today, sales volume is usually the highest on Christmas Eve or the last Saturday before Christmas -- which fall on the same day this year.
Carol Wilson, owner of Neolithics and treasurer of Craig's Downtown Business Association, said she's excited to jump into the holiday season.
"The day after Thanksgiving is busy, but I wouldn't call it my busiest," she said. "There are some pretty hectic days leading up to Christmas that are busier for me."
And that's exactly what Wilson said she needs to make up for a few slower months.
"That whole month leading up to Christmas is our busiest," Wilson said. "This is our make-it-or-break-it month."
The day after Thanksgiving also means early morning deals and drastic price cuts for shoppers.
Karen Zimmerman, owner of Under the Aspen Tree, said she plans to open 6 a.m. today with progressive sales, cutting prices by 40 percent on some merchandise.
"People in (Grand) Junction do it, so why not do it in Craig?" Zimmerman said.
Annette Gianinetti, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, said she expects efforts by businesses to attract customers to pay off.
"Every place I've been, I've seen people have their stuff out and they've extended their hours to make it easier for customers," she said. "I think it will be a very good turnout."
Zimmerman said she hopes for a good turnout. Craig stores have more to offer than shoppers might expect, she said.
"I think we have nice quality, unique gifts, and I think they come with more of a meaning," she said.
Some retailers, including Zim--merman, say the cost of fuel might deter shoppers from driving to Grand Junction or Denver. Some shoppers also might want to avoid paying shipping rates for purchases they made online, she said.
"Hopefully, people will take into consideration the gas prices and shop Craig," she said.
To keep shoppers in Craig, some businesses are offering incentives. On Dec. 4, the Downtown Business Association will offer a sales-tax free shopping night.
The group calls the event, "Get your can downtown," because participating businesses accept donations of canned goods for the Interfaith Food Bank.
Also, anyone who wants to support local shops but can't decide on the perfect gift can purchase Spree Dollars through the Chamber of Commerce in $5, $25 and $50 increments. Shoppers can use the certificates at almost all Craig business, Gianinetti said.
Wilson said she hopes all the shopping incentives will keep Craig shoppers and their dollars here.
"I'm figuring a number of folks are opting not to drive out of town for shopping just because it's so expensive," she said. "There is such a variety of items available right here in Craig."
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or email@example.com.