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Registers jingle as holiday shopping kicks into gear

The traditional opening day of Christmas shopping started with aflourish this morning as shoppers waited in lines to enter storesand purchase gifts.

Retailers said that if today was any indication of the seasonthey would have reason to celebrate.

“We had people lined up when we opened at 7 a.m.,” said VeronicaHaraughty, manager of the Stage store in Brookhaven. “It’s beenmore steady this year than it’s ever been. Usually they hit thestores that open early and come here later.”

Haraughty said she was very pleased with this year’s customerturnout and thought the store would easily exceed last year’searnings of $17,000 for the day.

“I expect to go way beyond that this year,” she said.

Ken Dunn, manager of Perkins Ace Hardware, said his store alsoshowed a strong start to the Christmas season.

“It went real good,” he said. “We had a big crowd. They werelined up early. We had a big rush until about 7:30 a.m., and it’sbeen steady since then.”

Customers, too, seem to think the season is starting off well,although some said the discounts at some stores were not as greatas they expected.

Randy and Michelle Williams said they started their earlymorning shopping spree at 5 a.m.

“We’re not finding everything we wanted, but we’re OK,” MichelleWilliams said.

Randy Williams said that even though their shopping trip wasgoing well, he was a bit disappointed in some of the discounts.

“We’re not finding the big markdowns everywhere that weexpected,” he said. “Some stores are good, but others aren’t quiteas good.”

Between the city’s quick recovery from Hurricane Katrina damageand the influx of coastal evacuees, the storm may have had boostedthe Brookhaven’s economy, Haraughty said.

If anything, Katrina seems to have had a positive effect on thecity’s Christmas shopping season, she said.

“It’s been almost like Christmas since the hurricane hit, and ithasn’t slowed down,” Haraughty said. “September to October isusually our slow period, and we had one of the best periodsever.”

The trend apparently carried citywide. Sales tax figures forOctober, the most recent month for which statistics were available,show Brookhaven’s intake up nearly $120,000 from October 2004. Thecity was almost $200,000 ahead for the year before the majorshopping season ever began.