Businesses focus on white Christmas rather than Black Friday |

Businesses focus on white Christmas rather than Black Friday

Adam Jensen

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Lines of anxious bargain hunters clamoring for cut-rate prices at some of the nation’s largest retailers is a telltale sign that Thanksgiving has come and gone.

But, with the strength of retail spending still very much in doubt, local businesses aren’t as concerned with Black Friday lines as they are with lines of a different kind – lift lines.

South Lake Tahoe retail stores don’t typically experience the “gangbusters” Black Friday seen in urban areas around the country, said Dana Turvey, a manager at Sports Ltd. and 15-year veteran of the South Shore retail market. But the Thanksgiving weekend typically marks the start of the ski season, one of Lake Tahoe’s busiest times for local retailers, Turvey said.

“As far as Black Friday goes, it is typically not the whole Wal-mart, Target, Best Buy, waiting in line since three in the morning kind of deal,” Turvey said. “It seems that the Black Friday shoppers head from Tahoe to Reno. We’re just set up for winter and (the) Thanksgiving weekend and we are welcoming all shoppers.”

With Heavenly Mountain Resort’s opening last week, Sports Ltd. experienced an up-tick in sales and any deals available at the store are aimed at winter visitors rather than the Black Friday crowds, Turvey said.

The focus on winter visitors rather than one-time bargain hunters is a common one around town, said Betty “B” Gorman, the President of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

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“I think the businesses here are gearing up for the holidays season and not running Black Friday Sales necessarily,” Gorman said. “For us its the beginning of the ski season.”

Despite the focus on the winter season as a whole, South Shore bargain hunters don’t necessarily need to leave the hill to find a deal.

Ahern Rentals South Lake Tahoe store will open an hour early, at 6 a.m., on Friday and will offer the first 20 customers a free 14 volt cordless drill with a $5 minimum purchase.

Mark Winkelman, the branch manager for the Reno and Tahoe area Ahern Rentals stores, said the drill giveaway is a response to South Shore residents’ “warm reception” of the store, which opened in September 2008.

“It’s kind of our way to give back to the community,” Winkelman said.

Hundreds of bargains from Thanksgiving ads for national chains with local stores – including Kmart, RadioShack and Ace Hardware – have already leaked to online deal sites and some national chains have begun promoting Black Friday bargains using social media sites.

Office supplies chain Staples Inc. used social media to advertise price cuts of nearly 50 percent for Nov. 27 on certain laptops, GPS devices and computer monitors.

The deep discounts, could be key to getting shoppers in the door this season.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Commerce Department said retail sales rose 1.4 percent in October, following a dismal September retail performance. Many analysts remain concerned about consumer demand going forward.

“Against a background of high unemployment, low income growth and tight credit, it seems unlikely that households will be able to spend more freely anytime soon,” Paul Dales, U.S. economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a research note.

U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $682.74 on holiday-related shopping, a 3.2 percent drop from last year’s $705.01, according a recent survey by the National Retail Federation.

Whether consumers will spend their money at the South Shore, could largely rest in the hands of Mother Nature, Gorman said.

“The store owners who I have spoken to are saying it’s been quiet since Labor Day,” Gorman said. “But everyone is really hopeful for a strong ski season.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this report