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Local Holiday Shopping Starts Strong

Sales at local stores exceeded expectations

Despite an economic downturn and a possible war with Iraq, several local businesses say they're just fine this holiday season when it comes to sales.

"I know that last year there was a lot of doom and gloom about the holiday season, but we ended up doing very well," said Eric Kulczycky, marketing and public relations director for Tysons Corner Center. "There were long lines at Hecht’s and Circuit City, even before they opened."

The Friday after Thanksgiving, called "Black Friday," has historically been one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season.

Although businesses were still tabulating the final numbers for the first weekend of after Thanksgiving, several businesses said they've done just as well or better than last year.

"We're really pleased. Our favorite customers keep coming back," said Esta Johnston of Fairfax's Art to Wear, a specialty shop on North Street that features goods made by local crafters and artists. "We did almost four times as much as last year."

Johnston attributed strong sales to the unique goods they offer to customers. Although she said they didn't think too much about the holiday weekend, Saturday was one of their busiest days of the year.

"I had people say, it just feels good to come here," Johnston said.

Indeed, besides unique gifts, another factor contributing to a strong shopping weekend was the weather, according to Phil Morosco, general manager for Fair Oaks Mall.

"It is a lot colder this year than last," said Morosco, explaining that store managers told him that winter apparel was selling well. The weekend "went better than expected, given what we'd heard before."

Area toy stores also said their sales were strong during the Thanksgiving weekend.

"It's going great. We did as well as many stores at Fair City Mall," said Manz Alam, assistant manager for Hobby Works, a store in Fairfax. Customers have been buying train sets from the store. "Black Friday was one of our top days so far."

Lynne Stierman, co-owner of Once Upon A Time, a toy store on Church Street in Vienna, agreed. Stierman said their miniatures collection has been selling well, especially because of a recent news feature highlighting the Judaic items they have for Chanukah.

"Sales are fine, compared to last year. We have a hard time keeping up," Stierman said.

If there is concern among businesses, it would be maintaining strong sales in the current economic environment.

"We know we have to work a little bit to make sure we don't fall into the downturn," Johnston said.

Yet the economy itself was another reason why shoppers came out to fill the parking lots at Fair Oaks Mall, Morosco said.

"My guess is the stock market has been up for eight weeks straight, and consumer confidence is high," Morosco said. "And the fact that people have always been generous for the holidays."