Last year it was the Furby. The year before, the talking Elmo. Now as the Christmas season hits full swing, shoppers are on the hunt for scooters - the two-wheeled, human-powered variety.
In the a typical Christmas rush on the Friday following Thanksgiving Day, shoppers invaded the stores of Carson City with a vengeance, but consumers had a particular appetite this year, according to some store operators.
"This is our best year yet," said Wal-Mart Manager Dedrea Struck. The South Carson super store has been in operation nine years and by 2 p.m. had exceeded its daily projections. "We opened at 6 a.m. and it was like a steady mob coming through the door for the first 20 minutes."
Thousands of early shoppers crowded the mall where Wal-Mart is located, forming a line that ran the length of the parking lot. It was so full, some had to park on side streets to get to the action.
Struck said sales items quickly disappeared from the shelves shortly after the store's opening. "Our definite number one item was the scooters," she said.
Wal-Mart, usually open 24 hours, closed last night to stock the shelves.
There was a similar scene at Mervyn's one block to the north.
Promises of a free teddy bear to the first 700 customers had people lined down the sidewalk at 5:45 a.m., said Lynn Kerr, who works the register.
"It hasn't slowed down a bit," Kerr said in the afternoon. "It seems like we have more seasonal workers than regular workers, but it is still constant."
Kerr said over the past few weeks, deliveries to the store have increased from two trucks a week to four trucks. Mervyn's sales also exceeded expectations by early afternoon.
Several families braved the crowds on their days off to battle for everything from T-shirts to greeting cards.
"We expected worse," said Meyers resident Barbara Gibson. "A week ago we did the Reno thing and we couldn't find anything. We've had pretty good luck today."
Gibson traveled from Lake Tahoe with daughters Ashley and Alyssa and mother-in-law Ina Gibson.
Ashley made it a point to mention that her Christmas wish list includes a telescope. Ashley would prefer a technodog, another popular item this year. Amazingly, neither girl wants a scooter. They agreed that a scooter might be unsafe on Tahoe's icy streets.
All four were perusing the aisles at Sharon's Hallmark, a stone's throw from Mervyn's. The greeting card store's business increases by as much as 50 percent this time of year, said owner Sharon Most.
Claudia Saavedra's twin daughters, Bianca and Belinda, both hope to find a scooter under this year's tree. They also want an N' Sync music album and a puppy. One of their Christmas lists points it out in plain English: "A real dog!"
"They want exactly the same things, but in different order," Saavedra said.
Fleet Feet increases business in an interesting way, catering to high school athletes. During the year, 20 percent of its business is in lettermen's jackets. That number jumps to 50 percent around Christmas, said owner Tim Tetz. The jackets, made of wool with leather sleeves, cost approximately $200 dollars. Add embroidery to denote athletic affiliation for another $100. "It's a luxury that some kids can't afford on their own," Tetz said.
Early-morning lines and crowded stores were commonplace in the capital city and surrounding areas. Shoppers reported the same at K mart in North Carson, J.C. Penney and Target.