Craig-area residents flood stores for Black Friday, but economy could weigh on spending |

Craig-area residents flood stores for Black Friday, but economy could weigh on spending

Brian Smith

A resident walks through the doors of Walmart early Friday morning during a Black Friday sale. Regional economist Scott Ford said he expects holiday spending to be about the same as it was last year in Moffat County. Consumers, Ford contends, are developing a bit more confidence in spending recently, which could help local retail sales.

It was 3 a.m. when Teresa Tingle awoke Friday.

The 50-year-old Tingle, who lives in the Meeker area, faced an hour drive before arriving in Craig for the numerous Black Friday shopping deals.

But, she said that's something she's used to.

Every year, Tingle said she wakes up early to hit Walmart's sales floor in search of the perfect holiday gifts.

"It's just because of all the good sales that you get," she said as her nearly full cart rested at her side Friday. "We have an outfitting business, so I'm already used to getting up at 4 a.m., anyway."

This year, Tingle is shopping for her four children and 10 grandchildren — quite the bit of shopping, she said.

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"I'll be here until 2 or 3 o'clock, at least," she said. "I'll make a day of it."

And when Walmart's sale began at 5 a.m. Friday, Tingle rushed to the electronics department with her eyes on one specific gift, she said.

She wanted to nab a Nintendo Wii for her grandkids, she said.

"I wanted the red one and I got the last one, too," Tingle said.

The rush and excitement of getting the prized deal on that special item is worth the early morning drive and competing with other area residents looking for the same, she said.

Amid the hustle and bustle of the Walmart crowd was Craig resident Marvin Reynolds.

Friday was Reynolds' first time shopping on Black Friday, the day typically known as one of the busiest shopping days of the year around the country.

Reynolds said he came for groceries, and stayed for the deals and discounts that caught his eye.

As he looked around at the crowd of Walmart's electronics section, he said he thought the crowd was about as big as one would expect on the well-known shopping day.

"Even for Craig, it is kind of surprising," he said.

Meanwhile, as Craig residents shuffled through retail chain stores like Walmart, Kmart and Murdochs, just a short drive east, the small, downtown gift store Under the Aspen Tree sat mostly unoccupied.

Under the Aspen Tree owner Jackie Roberts said it was "very dead" around her store, which opened at 7 a.m. instead of the usual 10 a.m. just for Black Friday.

The morning's activity, Roberts said, was disappointing, to say the least.

Roberts contends the holiday shopping season could be tough on Craig's downtown businesses, due mostly to the economy.

"We just don't even have the people coming in looking," she said. "… Even coming through the front door."

Roberts said it is hard for a small business to compete with consumers' traditional mindset of shopping larger chain stores, and recently, the Internet.

"I have heard lots of people saying they have already ordered what they are going to get on the Internet," she said.

However, Reynolds said the economy and slumping consumer spending might not be kind on large chain stores, either.

"We see that in all kinds of different areas — no one is spending money," he said. "I'm single with no kids and I don't spend money."

The National Retail Federation predicted that 138 million people shopped on Black Friday, up from 134 million last year, according to a news release from the Colorado Retail Council.

Regional economist Scott Ford said average household spending throughout the holiday season is estimated to be about the same, if not a little less than last year.

According to Gallup International poll information provided by Ford, typical consumer households spent about $740 on gifts during last year's holiday season.

This year, Ford said Gallup is estimating spending to be about $715 per household.

In 2007, consumer holiday spending reached a high of $866 per household, according to statistics.

About 60 percent of surveyed households indicated they plan to spend about the same amount of money on gifts as they did in last year's holiday season. About 30 percent plan to spend less and only 10 percent plan to spend more, according to Gallup statistics.

"My sense is that we are looking at spending levels that are certainly down," Ford said. "What we are seeing is that it will be very similar to what it was last year. …The consumer, even though it is not great, is reaching a little bit of confidence that, 'OK, at least I am not going to lose my job next week.'"

Ford said slightly increasing consumer confidence may not result in more spending, however, due in part to recession-fostered frugality simply being "hard to turn around."

"We may not return to what I call the 2007 spending levels for quite some time," he said.

Craig resident Rich Norman, 54, agrees with Ford's sentiments, adding that he expects holiday spending to be "quite a bit slower."

"Even in my family, we're not going to be spending near as much this year," said the first-time Black Friday shopper at Walmart. "We're just kind of watching the money."

Tingle said she thought the Walmart shopping crowd was down about 25 to 30 percent from last year's attendance. Many residents, Tingle said, may need to cut down on holiday spending and "hit the sale price" in order to be able to put presents under the tree this year.

"I think it's the jobs, no one has jobs," she said. "That's the hardest part on them is no work, no money.

"A lot of people are in foreclosure on their homes, and it's a bad time of the year for that. So, you know, they're going to lose their home, they can't Christmas shop. It is kind of sad."

But, Tingle said she has hope things will get better soon.

"We cross our fingers everyday," she said.

As far as shopping locally, Ford said consumers are going to purchase what "they think is in their best interest."

"There is an element that goes with the consumer that does want to be loyal (to shopping local) … but, at what price does our loyalty begin to erode?" he said. "Would you buy 25 percent more, or 10 percent more? It varies."

Ford said smaller, locally-based stores have already been through a tough economic period and "have to do everything perfect" to survive through the holidays.

"It is a challenge to be a retailer in this market, hands down," he said. "Some of the bigger chains, you know Walmart and Kmart, because of their buying power and a few other things, really know how to handle this."

But, for shoppers like Hayden resident Michele Lewis, 32, some deals offered by large chains are too good to pass up.

Lewis, who had a full cart of items Friday at Kmart, said she goes shopping on Black Friday most years, either in Steamboat Springs or Craig.

She said she also planned to go shopping at Walmart after she was done at Kmart on Friday.

"It's just all the bargains and deals on electronics and everything," she said.

But, Black Friday was also about something more than money, deals or bargains for Lewis.

"It is just a good time to get in the Christmas spirit, I guess," she said.

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