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Holiday sales are going well in area

Norby's sales associate Rebekah Baer finishing ringing up a customer last week. Norby's, along with other local retailers, said that holiday sales are holding steady.

Bah, Humbug is not a phrase that will be uttered by Washington Avenue retailers this Christmas shopping season.

It's because the gloom that is being felt among major retailers in larger cities hasn't spread to Detroit Lakes.

Area retailers said that sales are doing well and beating expectations in some cases.

Norby's president Michael Norby said that his store was busy on the Friday after Thanksgiving - dubbed "Black Friday" because of the notion that holiday sales push retailers into the black or profit for the year.

The early morning rush slowed down by the afternoon, Norby said, but sales picked up throughout the weekend.

"Saturday and Sunday was better than expected," Norby said.

JCPenney Co. did well too, said store manager Pat Readel.

"We did better than last year," she said.

Readel said that the rush of shoppers on Black Friday is what's expected now.

"It's just a tradition," she said.

With the store opening a 4 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, Readel said that her store was ready.

Barb Engberg, owner of Red Willow located south of the downtown area, said that being a niche store helps.

"We specialize in high-end kitchen products," she said.

Engberg added that her store does well because it has something for everyone. Plus, she said that the economy isn't in as poor of shape as is being reported.

"I don't think the economy is as bad as the media portray it," Engberg said.

Engberg said that the economy in Detroit Lakes can stay strong by having shoppers spend their money locally.

A newcomer along Washington Avenue, Ben Franklin Crafts, doesn't know if holiday sales for this season are typical or not. That, though, is a good thing, said owner Cindy McCullough.

"We have the benefit of no past history and we are about what we create every month," she said.

With some people concerned about spending too much on the holidays, McCullough said that there are shoppers who are trying to create more homemade gifts.

McCullough said that her store capitalizes on that by serving those customers looking to create nice gifts on a budget.

Also, her store is still getting word-of-mouth business because it is so new.

"There isn't a need to drive to Fargo because they can find what they need in Detroit Lakes," McCullough said.

Jayne Halderson, store manager at Ben Franklin, said she likes to hear those shoppers say they can stay in town to find what they need.

Most retail owners and managers said that Detroit Lakes is in an envious position right now because it doesn't have the ups and downs of major metropolitan areas.

"We're a bit more sheltered," Readel said.

Norby said the sheltered nature of local economy means that sales stay steady no matter the shape of the nation's financial health.

"We don't get the highs of highs or the lows of lows," Norby said.

He's grateful that he isn't in areas of the country that have been hit hard thus far.

"We just plug along," he said.

If Norby's was in Michigan or Florida, Norby said that his attitude might change.

"We'd be in a pinch," he said.

One part of the economic downturn that is helping retailers is low gas prices.

"That extra money that they get from low gas prices is giving people a few extra dollars," Norby said.

He isn't concerned that it would lead shoppers to Fargo to shop.

"This is the best economic stimulus package that the government could give me," Norby said of what low gas prices mean to him and his shoppers' pocketbooks.