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Shop 'til you drop

Like it or not, the consumer side of the Christmas season is upon us already. Judging by sales receipts, available retail shopping hours and local anecdotes, more of us like it than not.

We might not have even feasted upon the Thanksgiving entree, but thoughts of sales and discounts fill our heads. Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving that used to be the biggest shopping day of the year -- doesn't even wait until Friday any longer. This isn't exclusively a big-city phenomenon, it's happening right here in Hays, America.

By 8 p.m. today, the world's largest retailer -- and, not surprisingly, Hays' as well ­-- will kick off the Christmas sales season. Walmart SuperCenter is starting Black Friday on Thursday evening. So is Hastings Books, Music & Video. Stores in The Mall join in the fun at midnight.

Retail's focus on holiday shopping is a long-standing tradition. Most stores, local and national chain alike, make or break their entire fiscal year based on Christmas receipts.

"It's certainly our biggest two months of the year," Walmart store manager Mike Konz said earlier this week. "From that standpoint, it really is a critical time for us."

It's critical for those not located on Vine Street as well.

"Holiday shopping already has started downtown for us," said Traci Konrade, executive director of Downtown Hays Development Corp. "I've spoken with many of (the retailers) in the last week, and many of them are surpassing margins that they've had in the past."

There is no time like the present to remind area shoppers of the value of supporting local stores. Not only are Hays retailers continuing to expand the variety of goods available, but local purchases keep dollars circulating in the local economy. Buying that special toy, home furnishing or the latest fashionable outfit in town helps keep your neighbors employed, stores surviving another year and tax dollars retained in local coffers.

In short, it's one of the best economic development tools we possess.

And if you can't decide what to get one of the special people on your list, there is always the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce. Chamber Cheques, the equivalent of a gift card good at almost 500 member businesses, are available. They make great stocking stuffers and employee bonuses as well.

So, if you're one of those who like to shop until you drop, save the drive time. At least for now. There are sure to be items you're looking for that simply can't be found in town. But if you start the shopping season here, you might be surprised how much of the list you can check off without leaving the area. All of which allows even more time for friends and family this holiday weekend.

Good luck -- and don't forget to have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net