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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Local stores sales vary

Sunday, November 30, 2008

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

This year's Black Friday weekend was better for some Henry County-Martinsville merchants than others.

Sales at Walmart on Commonwealth Boulevard on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving - which retailers consider to be the official start of the Christmas shopping season - were up about 9 percent compared to the same time last year, according to Store Manager P.J. Testa.

Considering local and national economic problems, sales were "a whole lot better than I expected," Testa said.

At the Roses discount store across from Walmart, Christmas season sales usually increase as the holiday approaches, said Store Manager Judy Smith.

But "sales have been up" Friday and Saturday, Smith said. She estimated sales were 10 percent to 15 percent higher than during last year's Black Friday weekend, especially on Friday.

Some local stores opened as early as 5 a.m. Friday. Roses opened at 8 a.m. and "there was a pretty good-sized crowd waiting for us," Smith said.

David Ralph, acting store manager at Kmart on Greensboro Road, said sales this weekend have been about the same as during the same period last year.

But at Belk in Liberty Fair Mall, sales Friday and Saturday were down about 25 percent from the two days after Thanksgiving last year, Store Manager Suzanne McInturff said. And, "crowds are much less" than she expected.

That is "not good," she said.

Although the crowd at Walmart on Saturday was not as large as it was on Friday, Testa said there was "constant traffic" in the store on Saturday.

Smith indicated the situation was much the same at Roses.

Even if the economy is prompting some people to trim their spending, people "have money and they're spending it," she said. "It makes a big difference to know the economy is not as bad as people think it is."�

Maybe the sharp drop in gasoline prices in recent weeks is making people feel better about the economy, Smith speculated.

And, by shopping at discount department stores, "maybe people feel like they're getting more for their money," she added.

Clothes and toys were selling well at Roses and Kmart, Smith and Ralph said.

Global positioning systems (GPS) also were selling well at Kmart, Ralph mentioned.

At Walmart, "anything electronic" was selling well, said Testa. That included portable music players and flat-screen television sets, he said.

However, "a whole lot of Christmas items (such as decorations) haven't started selling (well) yet," he said, speculating those sales will pick up as Christmas draws near.

"There's nothing in particular that's flying out" the door, so to speak, at Belk, McInturff said, although home furnishings have been selling well and clothes have been selling "fairly well."�

"People are probably buying more along the line of what they need instead of what they want," she said.

Many stores at Liberty Fair Mall - especially smaller ones - say corporate policies prohibit them from talking to the media about sales figures. Several merchants said, though, their sales so far this weekend have been about the same as during last year's Black Friday weekend, or a little more or less.

One small local store that has done well this weekend is Plunder Junction, a gift and gourmet food store on Memorial Boulevard in Martinsville.

"We've been doing really good," said owner Terry Swafford. His employees on Saturday were "on the run most all day long" assisting customers.

He said Plunder Junction's sales Friday and Saturday have been about the same as during Black Friday weekend last year.

Customers "don't seem to be cutting back" on their spending this year, Swafford said.

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday because merchants say sales on that day sometimes are what makes them profitable for the year.


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