KINGMAN - Holiday shoppers were out in swarms this weekend, some starting as early as 3:30 a.m. on Black Friday, the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season.
The national projections for sales this year are lower than last, increasing only five percent to $457.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group. Last year, holiday sales saw a 6.1 percent increase to $435.6 billion.
Holiday retail shopping accounts for about one-fifth of total sales, according to NRF, "making it the most important period of the year for the industry."
Even though the numbers aren't in line with 2005, perhaps because of a number of economic challenges facing consumers, 2006 is still expected to surpass the 10-year average of a 4.6 percent yearly increase.
Shoppers in Kingman have mixed feelings about the economy, including local gas prices, which have continued to creep back up, reaching an average of $2.33 - nine cents above the national average. Some residents voiced concerns about spending too much during the holiday season. But others cited having more friends in town, additional family members, including new babies, and Wal-Mart, the world's retail giant, as contributing factors to their increased spending this year.
Kingman's Wal-Mart Super Center was still bustling after a hectic Black Friday sale that filled nearly every aisle with people hauling overflowing carts - some people even pulling two in order to fit everything they wanted.
One of the hot items this year was the high-definition television set. They came in nearly every size, from 42-inch plasma, flat panel to 20 inches. According to one employee, who checked the number of sales as of Saturday morning, Wal-Mart sold 114 sets.
Thirty of those were the 42-inch high-definition televisions. The pallets of TVs put out at 5 a.m. Friday morning had been restocked and once again piled high with DVDs and specialty catalogue offers. The entire pallet of portable DVD players sold immediately Friday morning, one employee said.
The manager of Sears said her store also had a good crowd Friday morning, some waiting in line for an hour and a half before the store opened at 5 a.m.
"The morning went well. I couldn't even begin to tell you (how many people came in)," she said.
Wal-Mart is competing with Sears on some of its prices and services. A Sears manager said several people had come over from the retail superstore to compare prices, some of them complaining that Wal-Mart didn't have delivery or setup, both of which are offered by Sears.
The hot sellers were the half-off tools, selling for $9.99, but high definition television sales were a hit for Sears, too. The 51-inch TV was one of the best sellers.
Unfortunately, for new HDTV owners, Kingman doesn't offer any high definition cable channels. Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City have six channels offered, according to the local cable company, but there is no timeline on when Kingman will see the technology. A customer service representative from NPG Cable, Inc. said the equipment is too expensive at this time.
"Right now the only way to receive high definition in Kingman is through satellite," the Sears manager said. But the cable company attested to the fact that the picture quality is still much improved from the old-school style televisions.
And because most new TVs are flat screen, as opposed to the traditional rounded screen, there is little distortion in the picture.
Today is the last day to see huge savings at many of the stores in town. The Saturday before Christmas, Christmas Eve and the few days following are among the other top holiday shopping days of the year.