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Retail business brisk but not record-breaking Friday

Tickle Me Elmo hasn't been KO'd, but he's on the ropes.

Sing 'n' Snore Ernie appears to be the champ for 1997 in the Rogue Valley'sChristmas shopping season, which began in earnest Friday.

The Tickle Me assortment is still big, but Sing 'n' Snore Ernieis definitely the hot item this year, said Torri Taunton, managerof the Toys R Us store in Medford. There is a lot of interest in that.

But there is also plenty of interest in Star Wars figures and a lasertag game, she said.

Ernie, who sings Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star before fallingasleep and snoring, was also in high demand at the Target store in Medford.

That's the big one this year, said assistant manager BrandonSchornstein.

Friday was also a big day for the store, he added.

It's a little more spread out than it was this time last year,but, sales-wise, we're doing more than last year, he said.

The day after Thanksgiving is typically the biggest shopping day of theyear for many merchants across the valley. Stores opened early Friday toentice shoppers.

Retailers count on the holidays for about half their annual sales andprofits. Last year, consumers did 10 percent of their Christmas shoppingduring the weekend following Thanksgiving, according to the InternationalCouncil of Shopping Centers, a New York-based trade group.

Last year, the Friday after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday as it's knownin the trade, was the fifth-biggest shopping day of the year. The four otherbusiest days were in the 11 days before Christmas.

According to a recent Associated Press poll by ICR of Media, Pa., nearlya third of Americans surveyed said they plan to spend less on gifts thisyear. Fifty-six percent said spending will stay about the same as in 1996,while 12 percent said they will spend more.

In the Rogue Valley, most store managers reported a busy Friday.

It's been wonderful, really busy, Taunton said late Fridayafternoon. This is the biggest day of the year for us.

The same story was being reported at the Rogue Valley Mall.

We're extremely busy, said marketing director Jill Ditty.

Although she had no numbers, the flow of people into the shopping complexindicated it was as busy or busier than the same day last year, she said.

In Jacksonville, Scheffel's Toys was also doing a brisk business.

More people, but they're spending about the same amount of dollars,reported store employee Gail Kinney as she rang up another sale. We'rereally, really busy.

So was the Northwest Nature Shop in Ashland.

While they were selling plenty of bird seed and similar items, this yearbrings a demand for Whitewings, a paper glider, said Mike Uhtoff, co-ownerof the shop.

Every fifth or sixth person gets one, he said of the educationaltoy youngsters put together. It's especially designed for great flying.We're selling a lot of toys that are science kits.

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