Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

The image of a shopper at Ala Moana is reflected
in window as she admires a Christmas
ornament on display.

Reduced means
hasn’t reduced
thought for others

Fears can't interfere with
holiday buying spirit

By Nancy Arcayna

A sluggish economy, fears of terrorist attacks and a raging war in Afghanistan couldn't keep people away from the malls. After all, the Grinch tried to stop Christmas from coming and didn't succeed, so how in the world could Osama bin Laden accomplish such a feat?

The spirit of giving, with us since Sept. 11, remains alive and well as shoppers crowded shopping centers and malls all weekend long in hope of bringing joy to loved ones and, in some cases, strangers in need.

Because of tight budgets, getting the deal was important. Retailers may get less out of it when the final sales are tallied at the end of the month, but on the sales floor it didn't look much different from last Christmas.

"They say the economy is bad, but you wouldn't have known it if you were at Ala Moana today. I'm spending the same as usual," said Gail Kang, who was shopping at Kaybee Pearlridge.

Margaret Cosma was one of the souls in line at Wal-Mart before 5 a.m. Friday. She was at Pearlridge at 8 that same night. "I know I'm spending more money than I did at this point last year. This may not be a good year, so I am shopping early to get the best bargains."

Day after Thanksgiving shopping crowd at Pearlridge.

Bargain seekers started on Thanksgiving day when Kmart opened its doors for a 67-hour shopping spree. "This year, I've had to cut back on spending ... so I'm out trying to get some bargains," said one shopper who said she had to sneak away from the Thanksgiving dinner table. Her cart was full of jewelry boxes marked at half price and an assortment of gift items. The lines were long, so I guess lots of other folks slipped away from family festivities as well.

The lines at Kaybee Pearlridge and Toys R Us spiraled around the building Friday morning with hundreds of eager shoppers awaiting bargains. The smart shoppers had all of the sale ads in hand, prepared for the price comparison guarantee offered at Toys R Us. In the spirit of Christmas, sale ads were shared with others who had forgotten them or were unaware of the policy.

Other people were vicious as they tried to get those extra-special items on their kids' Christmas wish list, while they were on sale and still in stock, even if it meant lifting an item from another shopper's unwatched shopping cart.

"Everyone knows the abuse they will receive as they fight the crowds," said James Barber. "Parking was horrendous at Ala Moana. But it was all worth it because it is part of the Christmas tradition," said James Barber.

Marlene Tokunaga went shopping in the belief that in spite of the poor economy and accompanying low spirits of adults, children should not have to be made to suffer. Even so, "This is the first time I've went to these sales, but I don't think I want to do it again," she said, as she shoved several bags of toys into her trunk.

Teddi Watanabe added, "You can't beat the after-holiday sales, especially with the economy the way it is. All of these things I bought were half price, and the soda was even 89 cents." She grabbed several bagfuls of toys, hopped in her car and headed off to Macy's and Penney's.

While many individuals choose to stay clear of the chaos the holiday rush brings, others welcome it with open arms. "I started doing this a few years back. It's as traditional as carving the turkey, and I can't imagine staying home. I was out early Friday morning and will probably be shopping until the stores close on Sunday," said Sean Duprey, who was shopping with his wife and two kids.

And it wasn't just about the kids getting toys for Christmas. Shoppers lined up at various outlet stores in Waikele to get in on special deals for themselves.

"There was a bunch of women outside foaming at the mouth way before 5 a.m. It's scary when people arrive before the salesclerks," said Chris Cadiz, a sales associate at Tommy Hilfiger in Waikele.

"We were in line at Tommy Hilfiger for four hours, so we didn't get any of the other stuff we needed and will have to go shopping again on Sunday," said Michelle Mariano.

Not all spending was personal. Many shoppers were mindful of those in need. People swarmed around the Salvation Army angel tree at Pearlridge to donate items to underprivileged children.

"The change in economy hasn't had an effect on me. It does for lots of people, though, with all the loss of jobs," said Tammy Acidera as she made her way around the angel tree.

"We are still buying gifts this year. But we really want to be thankful for the things we already have, especially our family and loved ones. With everything going on in the world, we definitely need to start being more appreciative," said Marci Valencia.

"We need to support the economy. I just pray I don't get laid off," said Desiree Treu, a school cafeteria worker. "This year, we are buying a lot of combined gifts. If adults are already working, we are not buying gifts for them ... only for the children and those attending college."

"My sister has been shopping at the stores on the North Shore because they are really hurting over there. She is also making a lot of gift baskets with seeds, mochi crunch or snacks to save money," Treu added.

Iris Amantiad spent the whole day shopping on Friday. "There's a lot of people who just love Christmas. I was out since 4 a.m. starting at Kaybee toy store, grabbing all of the discounted items. There is always someone to give them to," she said. After her shopping spree, she headed off to work at Macy's, where she helped others seek more deals.

Jaylene Chee was another holiday sale shopper who was out all weekend. "This year, going broke on bargains is worth it. It's exciting to be in middle of the rush. The deals were even better than last year. It's all about letting the Christmas madness begin. I always need a couple days to recuperate after my adventure."

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