'Buy Nothing,' urge protesters, but many were doing otherwise

Gay Luke and Lynette Fisher woke up at 4 a.m. Friday, left Ronan at 5 and hit the ground shopping in Missoula at 6. They stopped first at Wal-Mart, then ShopKo, Sears, Target, Gart, Best Buy, the Bon and back to Southgate Mall.

By 11 a.m. they had completed their Christmas shopping - everything except stocking stuffers.

Most shoppers weren't as well organized, but they were out Friday, filling stores that had been suffering economically from the August forest fires.

Luke and Fisher, Pablo schoolteachers, were on a mission. They had made up their lists a week ago and then checked advertisements to find the best deals.

"I saved tons of money," said Luke, a single mother with three daughters. "We had our lists and checked them twice."

Merchants and shoppers say at least two items appear to be hits this year - scooters and the robotic dog Poo-chi. Leather and fleece clothing also seem to be popular.

"Retailers create trends themselves," said Kimberly Roth, marketing director for Southgate Mall. "They test-market items six months before (the holidays) to see what customers respond to. Fleece and leather are very popular."

Rich Boberg, general manager of the Bon, agreed, adding sweaters and turtlenecks to the list of popular Christmas gifts. The Bon, like several other stores in Missoula, opened at

7 a.m. Friday with special discounts.

"There wasn't a lot (of traffic) this morning but it picked up around 10 and it's been steady since then," he said. "We're tracking well ahead of last year."

Seattle residents Doug and Kathie Thoma and their sister-in-law Keri were visiting family in Thompson Falls and shopping at the mall in Missoula.

"It's quiet compared to Seattle. We drove up and found a parking spot right away," Keri said.

Keri had planned to give a scooter to Doug and Kathie's oldest child, but the grandparents had already staked out that gift. Lincoln Logs and Lego toys were mentioned for the 5-year-old and "any tools of destruction" for the 3-year-old, Kathie added.

For Dale and Cleda Reid, Twin Bridges residents visiting their kids for Thanksgiving, it was an easy day keeping watch over a couple of small packages.

"We give 'em money and let them buy their own gifts. Then they get what they want," they said.

That's an attitude Tradehome Sales manager Christ Tabbert noted as he watched shoppers walk by in the mall.

"I think a lot of people in this town are walking, getting Christmas ideas," he said, adding that he doesn't believe the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest sales day of the year. "Families with just one bag in hand" walk by, he said.

He predicts Saturdays, Sundays and busy evenings when parents aren't working as higher sales days.

Mary Christensen of Missoula, who has four children to buy for, was one of those "lookers" Friday morning. She had started out at Wal-Mart at 6:30 a.m. and then went home about 7:30, hoping the crowds would thin out when she returned.

She was coming out of Target about noon and had been over at Best Buy where, she said, the checkout line was all the way to the back of the store.

At Target, Heidi Asay was collecting carts in the parking lot, a little different job from her usual clerical duties. Shopping, she reported, was hectic with "people buying like crazy. We can hardly keep up with the carts."

But not everyone was in a shopping mood Friday. Ten Hellgate High School students gathered over the lunch hour at Malfunction Junction holding signs urging drivers to make it a "Buy Nothing Day." America's overconsumption affects other countries and the environment, said Wynne Renz. Don't buy stuff you don't need, she said.

Her friend, Lynsey Bourke, agreed. "I thought it is a really good cause, giving Missoula another view on things."

The way Boberg, the Bon's manager, sees it, things should turn around this Christmas season. "It's been a difficult third quarter because of the fires and all the things downtown," he said, citing last summer's Hells Angels visit. "But I see an upswing going into the fourth (quarter)."

Reporter Donna Syvertson can be reached at 523-5361 or at dsyvertson@missoulian.com.

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