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Brenda and Travis Sakellaridis were among the many local residents who did some of their Christmas shopping in Challis. The two browsed around The Front Porch during the Christmas Shop Hop.

Business owners and managers from several stores in Challis and Salmon reported that the 2018 Christmas shopping season was pretty strong.

At the HUB, the community thrift store in Challis, volunteers said the shopping season started off really strong with a very busy Black Friday. Volunteers conducted one of their popular bag sales that day and shoppers lined up outside the store waiting their turn to get inside and find bargains.

“It was even busier than we expected,” one volunteer said. “It was almost overwhelming.”

The most popular purchases in November and December at the HUB were Christmas items — decorations, lights, clothing and especially holiday cards.

Shoppers shouldn’t worry about a shortage of Christmas goodies at the HUB at the end of 2019, volunteers said. Within days after Christmas, donors had already dropped off holiday merchandise which will be for sale in about a year.

The Dec. 8 Challis Shop Hop brought plenty of people into Allied Builders Supply, employee Chris Anderson said. Some of those folks browsed and bought, but many were just in search of their passport stamp.

After 2017’s sell-out of Christmas lights and some building materials to people building floats for the Challis night parade, Allied loaded up on lights, but they weren’t a hot item in 2018, Anderson said.

“People saved their lights,” she said. Plus, it seemed many other Challis businesses beefed up their holiday light inventory, so the community’s needs were met.

Steve Dahl, owner of Computer Zen in Salmon, said the most popular Christmas purchases from his store were educational STEM and STEAM products.

“We had to restock those three times during the season and sold out of some items,” Dahl said.

He was pleasantly surprised at the high level of interest in those gifts. But, he was taken back a bit by the slow sale of drones, which he’d expected to be a popular gift item. Another surprising hot seller was printers, Dahl said.

The volume of pre-Christmas shoppers was comparable to the prior year, Dahl said, but the store recorded a spike in after-Christmas shoppers. Maybe, he guessed, people didn’t get the Christmas gifts they hoped for, “so they came in and bought it for themselves.”

It was a good holiday season at The Bent Rod Outdoors, owner Greg Webster said. And, shoppers started shopping in earnest a bit earlier this year at his store.

Like most years, people bought “a little bit of everything,” Webster said, including socks, gifts, hydroflasks, knives, trekking poles and clothing. He noticed an uptick in sales of ice fishing equipment but said that might not necessarily have been for Christmas gifts, because it is ice fishing season after all. Likewise, boot sales were good, but that could just be weather-related, Webster said.

Boot sales weren’t hot at Arfmann’s Four Seasons in Salmon, owner Loren Arfmann said, mostly because there hasn’t been much cold winter weather. Likewise the sales volume of winter coats has been flat, too.

Overall, Christmas at the downtown Salmon store was OK, he said, not a record-setter either way.

It was the first Christmas his store didn’t have a children’s department, which closed in mid-2018. Lots of shoppers seemed unaware of that, Arfmann said, and came in looking specifically for children’s merchandise.

Four Seasons still stocks toys, and sales of those “were bigger than ever,” he said. Likewise, sportswear and gifts “flew off the shelves.”

Most of the area holiday shoppers were locals, shop owners said — residents of Custer, Lemhi and Butte counties. But the hockey season now underway in Salmon brought shoppers from as far away as Boise into Computer Zen. The shoppers were in town for hockey games and took advantage of Salmon shopping opportunities, Dahl said. He estimated that half of his store’s Christmas shoppers were from out of town.

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