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Downtown hoping for healthy sales

Friday kicks off the Christmas shopping season with retailers offering double jingle bells tickets, yuletide sampler and extended hours.

But while most retailers in malls around the state hope for a sales boost, one Park Rapids shop isn't counting on it.

"If I had a 2 percent increase, I would be lucky," said owner of Ben Franklin John Lutz.

The most profitable season downtown is not Christmas, it's the summer months and around the Fourth of July holiday, he said.

But with all the specials and unique items that can only be found downtown and not in the metro areas, the local economy benefits from seasonal residents who stick around for the holidays, said Downtown Business Association president Cynthia Jones.

The owner of Riverbend Home Expression said the tree lighting, Santa's house, sales and specials held on Black Friday are attractive enough to out-of-towners.

She added that the marked down merchandize - almost same prices as in the big cities - hopefully encourage people to shop locally.

It's hard to anticipate if all local retailers will gain or lose this season, but Jones said shoppers are beginning to look for gifts earlier this year as a sign of the dismal economy.

"It's really going to be hard to tell until we get in the season," she said. But people are watching what they're spending.