The silver bells for merchants on the North Olympic Peninsula rang out on the first two shopping days of the holiday season — ka-ching!
“We’ve just been busier than a bunch of bird dogs,” Swain’s General Store manager Jack Little said Friday afternoon as crowds of people filled the Port Angeles store for a jump-start on Christmas spending.
“If this is any indicator, it’s going to be a tremendous Christmas.”
Such was the sentiment at cash registers across the Peninsula on Friday, the first shopping day of the season.
Saturday was a bit slower, but optimism still filled the hearts — and coffers — of merchants.
At the newly opened Wal-Mart in Sequim, more than 100 people lined up starting at 4 a.m. Friday to take advantage of early-bird sales, while staff served up hot cocoa and coffee.
When the doors opened at 6 a.m. sharp, customers started not just browsing, but spending money.
“People are buying television sets and a lot of electronics,” store manager Lee Ruiz said.
The store ordered a healthy supply of electronics products, and so far it is meeting customer demand, he said.
Other Sequim businesses said shoppers were also hitting their sales racks.
At Staples office supply, staff said customers started filing through the doors at 6 a.m. and didn’t quit throughout the day Friday.
“From the time we opened, our sales have been brisk,” Staples general manager Brian Schuldt said.
He said sales appear to be up from last year’s.
Although he was initially worried about how Wal-Mart’s opening on the other side of Sequim would impact business, Schuldt said his worries have been laid to rest.
“They haven’t hurt us one bit,” he said.
Next door to Staples, at Swain’s Outdoor, night manager and sporting goods buyer Brian Menkal said the store made changes earlier this year in response to the new Wal-Mart.
“We are not trying to go head-to-head with Wal-Mart,” he said.
“We looked for ways to make our store distinctively different, including adding more sporting goods and tools, and it seems to be working.”
Swain’s Outdoor saw steady business all day, with about 90 people shopping within the first 30 minutes of its 7 a.m. opening, he said.
“It has been a very good year so far,” he said. “It is encouraging.”
Smaller downtown Sequim shops had customers swarming their stores Friday afternoon, merchants reported.
“I had anticipated that not much would happen today because all of the big stores were having sales,” said Over the Fence owner Jeri Sanford.
“But this is a busy place. It has been great, absolutely great.”
Sanford said the store usually does well during the Christmas season.
“From what I am seeing today, I expect this one to follow suit,” she said.
Port Angeles busy, too
In Port Angeles, shoppers filled the streets of downtown and floated in and out of the district’s businesses.
“We’ve had a really good time today, and it’s been fun to see out-of-town people that are here for the Thanksgiving weekend,” said Edna Peterson, owner of Necessities and Temptations at Railroad and Laurel streets, on Friday.
“It’s always just a fun day.”
At Gottschalks department store at First and Oak streets, manager Ken Porter said sales seemed to be up from this time a year ago.
“We’re running ahead of last year, which was ahead of the year before — which is good,” he said.
A few blocks away, at Budget CDs and Tapes on Front Street, owner Mike Colgan said his shop was “a little busier” than he thought it would be, though he wasn’t seeing a holiday rush.
“(Shoppers) don’t go here — they go to malls,” he said.
Colgan said he didn’t think the new Wal-Mart in Sequim, which also sells compact discs, had any effect on his sales.
“I have a whole different world going on here,” he said. “I have all the bad words.”
Busy in Forks store
On the West End, shoppers at Forks Thrifty Mart were taking advantage of holiday sales featuring discounts on tools and clothing, boots and shoes.
“I think we will see an increase from last year,” said Forks Thrifty Mart owner Bert Paul on Friday afternoon.
“But we won’t get the figures until tomorrow.”
Paul said holiday items including Christmas decorations have been selling well.
The store is also preparing for this coming Friday’s Moonlight Madness, an event which encourages Forks’ businesses to host sales and offer specials until about 11 p.m.
Staff at The Fern Gallery in Forks said people had been shopping in the store throughout the day on the day after Thanksgiving.“Sales seem to be going very nice,” Mary Hudon, the shop’s salesclerk, said.