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Post-Thanksgiving shoppers give local retailers glimmer of optimism

November 25, 2001|By MARCY MISNER, Staff Writer

It's that time again … just 30 more shopping days until Christmas, with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa fast approaching.

If Friday morning, traditionally the kick-off to the holiday shopping season, was any indication, this year's gift buyers are on track with spending in years past.

If one had walked into Mervyn's, Sears or dozens of other retail outlets in the Valley first thing Friday morning, one would have seen babies finishing their nights' sleep in strollers as mothers browsed, store holiday decorations hung, clothing on hangers askew.

One could have felt the feet of happy children and jostling elbows, heard the ringing of cash registers, the rustle of plastic bags stuffed to the top with unwrapped presents, clerks talking over the store intercom, and the humming voices of people looking for just the right gift this season.


The selection of merchandise and the numbers of people rival those found in metropolitan areas, without the commute.

But one San Felipe, Baja California family commuted to El Centro for its holiday shopping. Outside Sears in El Centro, the woman, whose name was not available, was loaded down under a humongous plastic bag half her size, stuffed with clothing and toys, while her son carried a similar parcel.

As she was walking to her car, she hefted the bag to one side and paused to say she and her family come to the Valley every Christmas season for three days to shop, and that she had completed her shopping this year.

As they continued on their trek to the outer reaches of the parking lot, a moment later a man, perhaps her husband, came to help her with the load.

At 8 a.m. there were roughly 30 people in line at each of the many cash registers at Mervyn's in El Centro, where Arizona resident Michelle Ruda had clothing stacked in a pile in both arms that she had selected as gifts.

Ruda, in the Valley visiting family for the Thanksgiving holiday, said she had just started her holiday shopping. When asked if anything, such as the Sept. 11 attacks on this nation had affected her decisions to buy gifts this year, she said no.

Most of those interviewed didn't think their holiday was going to be affected by the events in New York City and Washington, D.C., and felt positive about the holiday season.

"We're just having fun," said K-B Toys store manager Zoyla Leyva.

When Leyva arrived for work at 4 a.m. Friday, there was already a line of people bound for the toy store that stretched from the outside entrance of the shopping mall to Sears. The toy store had an early-bird sale that began at 5 a.m. and featured deeply discounted toys and a free Barbie for every $100 purchase.

Leyva said the most popular items Friday were GI Joe dolls, a Britney Spears doll, Poo-chi electronic dogs and Toy Story figures. Leyva said the Spears doll did not fare so well last year but has flown off shelves so far this season.

"It's tiring, but it's fun. We're just hoping for a good Christmas season this year," Leyva said.

Lourdes Navarro of El Centro stood in line with Sam Erunez, 13, of El Centro outside K-B Toys for an hour and a half, waiting to be let into the store.

They were waiting to buy GI Joe dolls that were offered for $4 at the early-bird sale. Navarro heard those action figures were gone, but still wanted to shop for toys despite the lengthy wait.

Just ahead of her in line was Gladys Silva of Calexico, who waited with her two sons, ages 2 and 5. Her 5-year-old son, Marvin, would like dinosaurs from the movie "Jurassic Park," so Silva planned to buy those Friday.

"I came here first," Silva said, adding she planned to visit Toys R Us in Calexico later.

"(The lines) will be worse," she said of the Calexico store.

Lines were long, but not unbearably so at Toys R Us later Friday morning, where about seven to 10 people stood at each of the store's registers, where electronic games seemed to be among the most popular choices.

In Brawley, Factory 2 U employees said business was picking up, especially with large discounts on clothing and outerwear.

El Centro Downtown Association President Larry Bratton said he hopes people will come to enjoy the newly revamped downtown area with its new town square.

As the owner of Brooks Jewelry, Bratton said he'd "seen lots of new faces today," and heard many positive comments about the painting and refurbishing of his business and others in the downtown area from the new customers.

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