Shoppers in North Dakota turned out in force on Black Friday, lending support to a prediction by the head of the state's Retail Association that holiday sales will be up, bucking the national trend.
Association President Mike Rud said he expects holiday sales in North Dakota to be up 1 to 2 percent over last year, compared with a predicted 1 percent drop nationally. North Dakota has not been hit as hard by the economic recession as other parts of the country.
"Consumer confidence is going to drive this thing," Rud said of Christmas sales. "If people are really happy with where the economy is, if that increases their confidence, they're going to be out there spending money. I think in North Dakota ... people are a little more happy with what's happening with the economy."
Will Skees, who began standing outside the Best Buy store in Bismarck at 7 p.m. Thursday so he could snatch up discounted laptops and video games Friday, said he plans to spend more money this Christmas than he did last year.
"This is the only way to get anything," he said early Friday. "It comes down to what (store) you want to stand in front of at this time of the morning _ what's got the most things that you want."
Black Friday gets its name because it traditionally was the day when huge crowds would push stores into "the black," or profitability.
Last year, sales during the holiday shopping season in North Dakota were flat. Rud blamed successive weekend storms during the last month and a half of the year that had many people digging out rather than out shopping.
North Dakota this year is snow-free. Temperatures across the state Friday morning were just slightly below freezing _ balmy weather for this time of year.
Greg Wheeler waited in 25-degree weather outside Bismarck's Target store Friday morning.
"When I met my wife and she did this _ that was 10 years ago _ I thought she was nuts," he said. "Now, 10 years later, here I am. It's kind of turned into a tradition."
North Dakota stores were filled not only with state residents but also some Canadians. Kristy Hurrell traveled from Manitoba to Fargo with her husband and children for a day of shopping.
"I leave them in the hotel, and I shop," she said, juggling several bags full of purchases at a local mall.
Rud said retailers are hopeful they will see many people like Hurrell between now and Christmas. One thing that might help, he said, is "a little snow to get them in the mood."