COEUR d'ALENE - Let's give it up for aggressive consumerism.
Coeur d'Alene retailers saw jumps in turnout and sales this Black Friday, which some hope indicate an improving economy.
"The industry kind of uses it as a barometer of how the overall sales are going to be," said Dave Harvey, president of Tri-State Outfitters.
Tri-State's Coeur d'Alene store set an all-time record for Black Friday sales last week, Harvey said, beating its last record by 20 percent.
Usually Black Friday isn't the store's biggest sales day, he said.
But this year, it was.
"It really exceeded all of our expectations," Harvey said.
The business had expected a healthy turnout because of the store's recent addition of ski equipment, he said, though the success might also stem from more folks hunting for deals on practical items like jeans, which were among the most popular items of the day.
Harvey also gives credit to the store's usual giveaway of free wool socks to the earliest risers.
"I think it's an extra incentive, getting something for nothing," he said.
Target saw close to 1,000 storm the store's Black Friday sale, said Greg Foley, Coeur d'Alene store team leader.
"It was told that was several hundred better than previous years," he said.
Opening at midnight played a big part in that success, Foley said.
And he wonders if individuals are starting to feel less impact from the recession.
"Customers have definitely become a lot more conscious in terms of waiting for those sales," he said. "But at the same time, I do know for our store, it does feel we're seeing an increase in shopping this time of year, as opposed to last year."
Items like discounted TVs and video game systems were the most popular items on Friday, Foley said.
The gains of the sale, he added, are an obvious boon for the store.
"In retail, sales translate to payroll," Foley said. "It's really nice to give additional payroll to our teams with the increase in traffic."
Big 5 Sporting Goods garnered sales just above last year's Black Friday bonanza, said store manager Jack Cunningham.
"It was so close," he said. "And close is a win, because last year (the day's sales) was up big, within 20 percent."
The store's popularity is weather-driven, he said, so he attributes last Friday's crowds to the snow earlier in the week.
The sale garnered more customers, he noted, but most of them made smaller purchases.
"I'd just have to go with the economy," Cunningham offered as explanation. "I had the big items staged and ready to go, the items we normally run out of, and they just sat. But the smaller items just flew."
Gift items like snow boots were popular, he said, while game tables were neglected.
Still, the sale was good for the store, Cunningham said.
"Black Friday is very important to the third quarter, and making the third quarter, so yeah, it's important," he said. "And it shows a positive kickoff to the Christmas season, which is a good thing."
The boost in sales this Black Friday could point to more confidence in the economy, said Regional Economist Kathryn Tacke with the Idaho Department of Labor.
That could mean more growth this upcoming year, she said.
"Last year, a lot of people wanted to save, too, and they didn't come out in quite such big numbers because they couldn't spend the money," Tacke said. "This is probably a good sign."