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Christmas shopping season a strong one, Hays retailers say

12/28/2008

By KALEY LYON

By KALEY LYON

klyon@dailynews.net

Despite national economic concerns, several Hays businesses have reported record-breaking sales during this holiday season.

Beginning with Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and culminating with after-Christmas sales beginning last week, local stores have thrived as customers rush in for the best bargains of the year.

"We had our best year ever," Wal-Mart SuperCenter Manager Mike Konz said. "It was just really strong business."

The retail giant, located at 4301 N. Vine, has been open in Hays since 1984, but never has experienced the sales volume that it did for the Christmas 2008 shopping season.

Black Friday was no exception -- the infamous shopping day was the store's most successful business day ever, Konz said. Post-Christmas sales also have drawn a wide customer base, as all holiday merchandise is marked down significantly.

Many businesses weren't sure what to expect this year, amidst fears of a national economic recession.

"We certainly didn't see that here in our store," Konz said. "I think we had just a great season."

Another long-time Hays department store, J.C. Penney, also had a merry Christmas, with sales skyrocketing past last year's figures.

With extended store hours and regular doorbuster discounts, staff kept busy as a steady stream of last-minute shoppers rushed in.

"It's been busy, busy, busy," Store Training Supervisor Jenny Conn said. "It was fun. It kept us busy, kept us on our toes for sure."

Across The Mall, Stage department store also received a warm welcome for its first Christmas in Hays. The store also offered holiday discounts and extended business hours, and has seen continued traffic for post-Christmas savings.

"Overall, we had an exceptional holiday season," Store Manager Pat Rinke said. "These last few days even after Christmas have been really good."

And even off of Vine Street, businesses in the historic Chestnut Street District have reported holiday sales figures to be merry about.

"I think people are taking advantage of shopping local and are understanding the importance of that, keeping our dollars in our hometown," said Michele Flax, owner of Bildschon Haus, 1100 Main, and Bildschon Baby, 1013 Main.

Flax said this holiday season is the busiest she's seen since opening the store's doors three years ago. The businesses were open longer than usual to accommodate holiday shoppers, and business has continued to come in strong for discounts on Christmas merchandise.

Sales have been so good, in fact, that the store's ample supply of holiday goods has nearly disappeared, she said.

While the stores attract many out-of-town visitors, the number of local shoppers also seems to be on the rise as consumers are re-discovering all the district has to offer, Flax said.

And despite national economic fears continually swirling, Flax said she is optimistic for the future of local business and Hays residents.

"I think we live in a very conservative and conscientious community," she said. "We're aware of what's going on in the world, but having said that, I'm not sure that it has affected us very much yet."