BISMARCK, North Dakota — Retailers in the Dakotas are expecting a strong holiday shopping season, with the oil boom in western North Dakota expected to be a factor in both states.
The day after Thanksgiving is generally considered the kickoff to the season, with stores offering Black Friday deals that draw shoppers to stores. That was the case in North Dakota and South Dakota, with many shoppers lining up at stores before their doors opened early Friday or even looking for post-meal deals Thursday night.
Shawna Steen, of Maplewood, Minnesota, said Black Friday is an annual outing in Fargo for her and her sisters, and this year's event was remarkably quiet.
"It's a lot different this year. We pulled up and we thought the mall wasn't even open," Steen said Friday morning while shopping at the West Acres Mall. "We're used to crowds and rushes of people right away in the morning, and it wasn't that way. Everyone must have done their shopping yesterday."
Steen's sister, Jerralee Storbakken, of Moorhead, Minnesota, said her family mapped out their shopping plan Thursday night, "then completely forgot about it" once they got to the mall.
"We're looking for the deals. We're winging it," she said.
Nationally, holiday sales are forecast to be 4.1 percent higher than last year, which would mark the biggest increase since 2011, according to the National Retail Federation.
South Dakota Retailers Association Executive Director Shawn Lyons said he expects a similar increase in South Dakota. A recent survey of association members found that 30 percent expected sales to be stable and 48 percent expected sales to be up.
An early October blizzard in 2013 that devastated South Dakota's ranching industry put a damper on many families' Christmas budgets last year.
"The retail economy has rebounded pretty well, and we haven't had the severe weather we had a year ago," Lyons said.
The western North Dakota oil boom also has boosted western South Dakota, where some companies and workers are based.
"It certainly can't be a negative in terms of (holiday) retail sales," Lyons said.
North Dakota Retail Association President Mike Rud said holiday sales in North Dakota might be up 5-6 percent over last year, not only because of the booming energy industry but also because of a strong overall economy.
The shopping season is a week shorter than last year due to the later Thanksgiving, and farmers are not enjoying as good of a year, but "as long as Mother Nature cooperates and we get some good weather, people will get out there and shop," Rud said. "Shopper traffic already has been heavy in the larger cities the last two weekends."
Kolpack contributed to this story from Fargo.
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