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Archive for Sunday, May 5, 1996

MERCHANTS GET HEAD START FOR SHOPPING FRENZY

May 5, 1996

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Sidewalk sale shoppers find hot summer bargains.

The planning starts months in advance and it all comes down to a single day.

It's the annual sidewalk sale, and this year marks the 18th time the event has brought merchants and customers together in a daylong shopping frenzy.

"We've already started preparing," said Chad Kemper, manager at Sunflower Surplus, 804 Mass. "We start boxing winter stuff right when the spring stuff starts to come in, in March."

Employees will continue to mark down merchandise as the big day approaches, Kemper said.

"The week before is really busy because we organize everything, rent tables and kind of write out a little game plan," he said.

The sidewalk sale, which is held by downtown merchants, takes place the third Thursday in July every year. It gives customers an opportunity to get some great bargains and businesses a chance to clear out-of-season and discontinued merchandise.

"We get rid of a bunch of old stock," Kemper said, "and we take in a whole bunch of money. It's such a long day that it just about kills me, but it's actually kind of fun."

There is no way to calculate how much money the event brings into Lawrence, but it does boost the slower summer economy, said Downtown Lawrence Inc. administrator Lisa Blair.

"It's one of the biggest annual events for downtown Lawrence and always has been," she said. "The majority of the stores are involved."

The sale hasn't changed much since the first one was held in 1978.

"We've talked about changing it, like increasing the number of days, but found that wouldn't be beneficial," Blair said. "We've also considered having entertainers, but they'd get lost in the crowd. The traditional stance is to provide space for merchants to hock their wares."

Nonprofit groups are also part of the day's activities, Blair said. Civic organizations and churches set up booths and sell everything from soft drinks to home-baked goods.

"It allows them to acquire funds for projects throughout the year and we feel like that's important," Blair said.

Blair said her phone starts ringing in January, with customers who want to know more about the sale.

"It usually brings in 5,000 to 7,000 people for the day," she said. "I know people who live on the east and west coasts who plan their summer vacations back to Kansas when the sidewalk sale is going on."

This year's sidewalk sale is July 18. For more information, contact Blair at 842-3883.

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