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Local stores report brisk start to holiday shopping

Nancy Kogel, Mitchell, looks at some of the holiday-themed gifts while shopping Saturday at the Tumbleweed in Mitchell. (Chris Huber/Republic)

The holiday boom has always been the lifeblood of retail businesses and this year appears to be no exception.

Taxable sales in the retail trade averaged around $33 million a month during the holiday season in Mitchell last year. When the holiday season was over in early 2011, those same sales fell to $26 million, according to the South Dakota Department of Revenue Sales and Use Tax Report.

Bonnie and Hank Kor, owners of Bonnie's DeKor on Third Street in Mitchell, are seeing strong sales so far this year as Christmas approaches.

"It's been great," said Bonnie, "We have people out here every day; we are ahead (in sales) of past years.

"We are hoping those sales keep carrying all the way through Christmas," she said.

According to Hank, about 40 percent of the store's sales for the entire year come from Christmas-themed items during the holiday season.

The home décor store transforms into a holiday decoration store each Christmas season complete with 63 Christmas trees hung with ornaments and trimmings.

The couple is seeing people start to spend money on Christmas decorations again, something that wasn't happening as much in the past couple years.

"We might sell three or four Nativity sets in an afternoon now, and those can run as much as $500," Hank said. "We just weren't seeing that in the last few years."

While not sure if this increase in sales is a sign the national economy is strengthening, he said the biggest reason their sales are up is likely tied to the strong local agriculture economy.

That may have been the reason for a rise in retail trade taxable sales for the fiscal year.

During fiscal year 2010, Mitchell's retail trade taxable sales were at $335.7 million. In fiscal year 2011 they rose to $352.6 million, an increase of more than 5 percent.

Another Mitchell store, the Tumbleweed in the Highland Mall, reported brisk sales as well.

"We are doing at least as good as we did last year," said owner Jackie Morrison.

Morrison figures around one-third of the store's gross sales come in November and December.

Assistant manager Kadie Kowall said the nice weather in October and early November may have hurt sales a little bit but the store has rebounded nicely.

"It just really didn't feel like Christmas with how nice it was out so I don't think people were really in shopping mode yet," said Kowall.

Morrison agreed. "We had kind of a rough October and I think part of that was the weather, but we are doing better now," she said.

Cabela's in Mitchell is also seeing strong holiday sales.

"We had an excellent holiday season last year and this year we are on pace to beat it so that is really great news," said Jason Jewell, a senior hard-lines manager.

Cabela's in Mitchell is in a unique situation because of the large number of pheasant hunters who flock to Mitchell in the fall.

"The fourth quarter is still our busiest quarter of the year like most businesses but our sales will usually peak during the opening weekend of pheasant hunting while others will peak on black Friday," said Jewell.

Once Cabela's gets shoppers in the door it will be trying to make their shopping experience pleasant, he said.

"We are offering free coffee, some baked goods, or fudge to our customers," Jewell said. "We just want to make their holiday shopping as enjoyable as we can."