Shoppers pour into N.D. storesNorth Dakota shoppers poured into the stores early on the day after Thanksgiving, many of them with few worries about the leaner financial times around the country. “Nope. Not here. Not unless oil falls below $40 a barrel,” Heather Bashus, 36, of Bismarck, said as she waited in line at an Old Navy store shortly after 4 a.m. Friday, hoping to nab one of the free MP3 players the store was giving away. “We’re kind of in our own insulated bubble here.”
By: By Blake Nicholson, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — North Dakota shoppers poured into the stores early on the day after Thanksgiving, many of them with few worries about the leaner financial times around the country.
“Nope. Not here. Not unless oil falls below $40 a barrel,” Heather Bashus, 36, of Bismarck, said as she waited in line at an Old Navy store shortly after 4 a.m. Friday, hoping to nab one of the free MP3 players the store was giving away. “We’re kind of in our own insulated bubble here.”
Nationally, retailers are wary of what the dismal economic outlook will mean for the holiday shopping season. But in North Dakota, the economy has been buoyed by an oil boom in the western part of the state and a couple of good years in agriculture, and not bothered much by the subprime mortgage mess. State lawmakers expect to convene in January with a record budget surplus of more than $1 billion.
North Dakota State University student Matt Rothschiller, 21, of Bismarck, who joked that “my older sister” was the reason he was out shopping in the early morning hours Friday, was aware of the larger financial picture.
“But I’m still a college student,” he said. “It’s not really going to stop me from coming out and buying what I want, or what other people want (for gifts).”
Black Friday, named because it was often the sales-packed day when retailers would become profitable for the year, is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday shopping season. While it isn’t a predictor of holiday season sales, the day after Thanksgiving is an important barometer of people’s willingness to spend.
Brooke Wiedrich, 24, of Mandan, who was one of the first shoppers inside a Bismarck Kohl’s store when it opened at 4 a.m. Friday, said she has a friend who lost a job recently, and she expects to spend a little less this year on Christmas gifts.
“That’s why I’m out looking for the better deals,” she said as she loaded packages into her car in the parking lot on a frosty morning with the temperature in the teens.
Mike Rud, president of the North Dakota Retail Association, said he expects holiday sales in the state this year to be up 2 to 3 percent over last year, compared with a predicted 1 percent rise nationally.
“I’m kind of hoping North Dakota can buck the trend, and have a good shopping season,” he said.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of practical shopping,” Rud said. “I think you’re going to see people buying clothes for kids ... TVs, microwaves selling as ‘family’ gifts. More practical items. Something they need rather than something they really want.”
North Dakota has not been untouched by the larger economic problems. Cirrus Design Corp. in Grand Forks, PrimeWood Inc. in Wahpeton, Pugsley’s in Devils Lake, Integreon Managed Solutions in Fargo and JLG Industries Inc. in Oakes have announced layoffs in recent months, and Bobcat Co. is offering buyouts to workers in Bismarck and West Fargo.
But mall managers around the state have reported strong sales despite the gloomy national financial scene. And industry officials say that while shoppers are likely to be cautious, that doesn’t mean they won’t spend.
Spending is what Amanda Fulliam, 30, of Bismarck, had in mind as she waited in lines at Old Navy and Herberger’s on Friday.
“Get the deals!” she said. “C’mon, man!”