By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
Although some communities reported record sales, crowds by and large felt thin at many stores in Wyoming for Black Friday, and even some Small Business Saturday shopping seemed to take a hit in some areas.
Val Martin with Art at The Hynds in Cheyenne told Cowboy State Daily its annual Small Business Saturday event, which gathers artisans together under one roof, felt like the slowest Shop Small Saturday she can recall.
Fewer Shoppers, Buying Small
Vendors at the event also told Cowboy State Daily they felt there was much less foot traffic than usual — although the shoppers who did turn up seemed interested in buying, particularly small gifts.
Susan Londe, for example, quickly sold all of her little jeweled Christmas spiders and most of her jeweled scorpions and rockhound lizards, the latter of which were going for around $9 each.
The small gift trend is something Tasha Messenger with Messenger Girls in Lander also echoed, where Black Friday sales were somewhat muted.
“We weren’t really expecting it to be that slow,” Messenger told Cowboy State Daily. “But Small Business Saturday was great. I talked to a bunch of other businesses, and we felt like people were really focused more on Small Business Saturday than Black Friday. They were trying to come out and support us on our day.”
Others Report Strong Turnout
In Gillette, meanwhile, Campbell County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jessica Seders reported record sales for Plaid Friday (an alternative to Black Friday) and Small Business Saturday.
In Casper, Elise Ellis with Target reports the store had a line of shoppers about 150 people long.
Ellis admitted splurging on a Keurig that was 50% off, which she will put in her office for members of her team to use.
“Electronics were a big hit,” Ellis said. “They’re always a big hit, and they definitely were this year. It was a fun and busy day for us here.”
It didn’t hurt, Ellis added, that Friday is payday for many.
“Some of these sales were happening earlier in the week, but people were waiting to get paid,” she said. “It was pretty busy for us up until later in the day. I would say that’s kind of when the snow started.”
The Inflation Effect
While traffic was brisk, many shoppers told Cowboy State Daily they plan to scale back their Christmas spending this year. Inflation is bearing down on them like a big green Grinch, which makes it hard to stick with the spending pattern of Christmases past.
Many also talked about having a heart-to-heart with themselves or their family members. Christmas has become too commercial, and they want to pull back from that and bring the occasion back to more of its true meaning.
“It’s about family and love, not gifts,” Monika Lujan told Cowboy State Daily.
Jessica and Isabella Ladelfa have also re-evaluated their Christmas priorities, and said they will do something that is more Hannukah-like. The family moved to Cheyenne from Arizona, seeking a smaller community, but not too small. The mother-daughter duo was among those browsing at 307 Made in Cheyenne on Saturday.
We’re going to give gifts from the heart, I guess, and keep it a little smaller,” Jessica Ladelfa said.
Christmas has become too commercial, she said, citing a year when Isabella received 56 gifts, including two of the same dollhouse.
“We’re still going to make crafts,” Jessica Ladelfa said. “And just, like, little thoughtful gifts.”
Crowds Not As Dense
Shelby and Mark Stankus, meanwhile, told Cowboy State Daily they all but skipped Black Friday and Small Business Saturday shopping altogether — although they used the occasion to buy a television they’d been wanting during Black Friday.
They also noted that crowds at the store where they bought the television seemed less than typical for Black Friday. Nationally, overall traffic has been reported as greater than last year, but perhaps still not at pre-pandemic levels now that there are so many deals leading up to the event itself, as well as online shopping.
Wait And See
“With inflation, everybody is kind of working on getting their Thanksgiving dinner and stuff,” Shelby Stankus said. “Not a lot of people have a lot of extra money for Black Friday shopping.”
“We’re just waiting to see what utilities are going to be looking like,” Mark Stankus added.
In the past, the Stankus family has typically done one big-ticket item and then a few smaller gifts. This year, the family plans to forget big-ticket items and stick with smaller gifts.
They still plan a traditional Christmas feast, though, with duck as the main course.
“I just throw it in the roaster oven like I would do a turkey to cook it,” she said.
But duck is not easier, she added. “You have to kind of slice the skin open, because it’s so oily.”
Inflation Not Holding Everyone Back
Not everyone is planning to cut back for Christmas.
Jay Drew and his wife, Martha, are among families that say it’s business as usual this Christmas.
“(Inflation) matters because I can’t buy a house,” Jay Drew said. “But it doesn’t matter as far as purchases and, you know, spending, and so Christmas will go on as scheduled.”
Jay added that his answer would probably be different if he had young children.
“Our children are grown so there’s no, I mean the answer is much different if I have three little ones I’ve got to buy an Xbox or PlayStation,” he said. “I don’t have to do any of those things for anybody.”
Buy It Online
“We did all our shopping online,” Rachel Spargur told Cowboy State Daily. “I will admit, I’m even guilty of doing deliveries for food instead of going out.”
Spargur isn’t alone. While Black Friday sales may have been a little muted for many stores, online sales were better than good.
According to Adobe Analytics, which has access to data covering 85% of purchases with the Internet’s top 100 retailers, consumers spent a record $9.12 billion online for Black Friday. Adobe Analytics also estimates Cyber Monday sales could top $11.2 billion.