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Shopping Season Varies for Retailers

Business the day after Thanksgiving slowed from last year for Wasim Entabi, owner of Mother May I? in the Dulles Town Center.

"It's a lot more traffic, but it's less in revenues," Entabi said. "This is a lot harder than the year before. ... We have a very educated consumer that reads the world news. Everything is so unstable, it gives the people a feeling of instability."

"With the economy down, people are spending less," said Randy Collins, president of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce. "Locally, there seems to be more people out of work. Joblessness and unemployment rates are up. A great many people are not purchasing for that reason."

At the same time, shoppers will buy what they have to regardless of the economy, especially in an area with a large population of children, Collins said. "Parents tend to overspend and to deliver at Christmas time when they haven't been able to deliver throughout the year," he said.

Collins does not expect the shopping season "to break any records." Retailers such as the Dulles Town Center and the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets reported to the chamber their sales numbers for the season prior to Friday were the same or a little higher than last year's numbers. "The retailers are holding their breath now. They're all praying people are going to come out and shop. Retail's a tough business," he said.

BUSINESS was not so tough for the Dulles Town Center, which had a record-breaking day on Friday with more than 40,000 visitors.

"We had an incredible kickoff to the shopping season," said Allison Fischer, marketing director. "We saw a lot of shopping bags, and our tenants were telling us they had a great day. ... That leaves us feeling optimistic about the rest of the shopping season."

Stores in the Dulles Town Center offered sales, such as 20 percent off the items in the entire store and markdowns of 20 to 50 percent off certain items.

"This is a bargain hunter day. That's what it becomes. People have a whole month to do their shopping," Entabi said.

"I think people are getting to more simple, more practical gift-giving," Collins said.

Collins expects to find out the actual sales numbers from the Christmas season in February or March 2003. The Dulles Town Center sales figures will be compiled in the beginning of 2003, Fischer said.