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Locals gather at stores for holiday shopping

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Small Business Saturday in Roswell took place via a livestreamed sales event on social media. MainStreet Roswell volunteer Juliana Halvorson broadcasts a segment with Dominic Batista, a co-owner of Hangar 209. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Roswell residents were lining up outside local stores and filling parking lots Friday and Saturday, experiencing in-person holiday weekend shopping.

In spite of “shelter in place” public health orders in New Mexico, lines outside of “big box” retailers were seen both days. Other large stores in the city had packed parking lots.

Some local shoppers were willing to wait hours because they didn’t want to shop online or by phone.

“I have a big, long list of things I need,” said Nora Galvan. “I swore I wasn’t coming out on Black Friday, but I get bored sitting at home.”

She said she had waited for three hours to enter Walmart days earlier when the restrictions went into place to limit how many people can be inside retail stores at one time. She had been waiting for about 90 minutes on Black Friday while still being yards away from the front of the line.

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Another woman said it was the fact that she only had a few items to buy that made her prefer in-person shopping.

“I think it is a waste because I don’t order enough” to shop online, said Linda Curt. “The only thing I have a problem with is the walking. My truck is over there and I have to walk all the way over here.”

At Target, the line was much shorter and people reported being in line for only 10 or 15 minutes.

“I am somebody that really likes to look at the items, make sure that we get the right size,” said Iveth Ortiz on Friday.

She said she pays attention to the public health advisories and only planned to shop at that one site that day.

“I have been staying at home,” she said. “I just needed a few items that I found that I wanted to purchase.”

Lois Devares said she lives in the country and only comes to Roswell to shop about once a week. She said she was shopping on behalf of her church.

“The ornaments that I want, they have them on the side, discounts,” Devares said. “You can’t get discounts online.”

In spite of the line outside Target on Saturday, Guest Services Representative Thalia Luna said she thinks from what she experienced that many people actually were choosing to shop online or by phone.

She said that online orders on Black Friday were triple what they are on slower days.

“Yesterday we were really, really busy, especially our drive-up system,” she said.

Many locally owned businesses didn’t have the option of opening their physical stores for Black Friday or Shop Small Saturday because the types of goods they sell do not qualify them as “essential” businesses as defined by the state.

Some of those businesses worked with MainStreet Roswell on a Small Business Saturday event, and some are participating in an ongoing online holiday campaign with the Roswell Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber is doing an online Shop Small Shop Safe promotion with shoppers able to earn gifts or a chance at a cash prize. MainStreet Roswell held a livestreamed Small Business Saturday event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hangar 209 was one of the businesses participating in the livestream, although it is able to keep its physical location open because the food items it sells qualify it as an “essential” business.

“We are still getting quite a lot of tourists who are looking for something to do,” said Rachel Robey. She said many out-of-state visitors are unaware of the New Mexico restrictions.

She also said that the store is working to boost its website sales at the same time it wants to continue to make customers feel comfortable coming to the store.

The executive director of MainStreet Roswell said the online event had good participation.

“MainStreet Roswell is very happy that 10 downtown businesses participated in our first Shop Small Saturday livestream shopping event,” Kathy Lay said. “Every 30-minute livestream had more viewers than most businesses would see during that 30-minute stretch, had they been open.”

She said the event was possible due to MainStreet volunteers, as well as other community partners that support local businesses.

She said videos will remain posted on the MainStreet Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MainStreetRoswell) and that information is also posted about other local businesses that sell online, by phone or via social media sites.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.