David and Dona Mitrany of Central Point Christmas shop at Ross Dress For Less on Saturday in Medford. - Jamie Lusch

Christmas on a discount

Southern Oregon discount stores have been the main hot spots for holiday shopping and crowds this season, a reflection of the staggering economy.

Holiday shoppers from around Southern Oregon, who usually converge on Medford's Rogue Valley Mall each year during the holiday season, seemed to gravitate more toward stores like Target, TJ Maxx and Ross Dress For Less to purchase their holiday gifts, shoppers said Sunday.

"Everybody's shopping discount stores," said Linda Atchley, of Jacksonville, as she stood in line with her husband, Jesse, at Ross Dress For Less on Medford's Poplar Drive that stretched nearly to the back of the store.

Many of the Black Friday sales at the Rogue Valley Mall still were in effect Sunday, in an attempt to gain more business.

"Romy has had half-off sales since Black Friday," said Stephanie Great, a sales clerk at the Glass Gallery stand in the mall. The stand is only open from the week before Thanksgiving until the week after Christmas.

"I've been working here for three years, and this is by far the slowest of years," Great said.

Even with sales at the mall, "their prices are still high, especially compared to places like this (Ross) and TJ Maxx," Jesse Atchley said. His wife was laid off from her job as an office manager at a dental office last June. Meanwhile, his health insurance premiums recently more than doubled at his job at a water delivery company, and he had to give up the family health insurance plan, which would have cost him $1,300 per month. The couple hopes to place their five children on the Oregon Health Plan.

Some shoppers who said they haven't been directly impacted by the economic downturn also have been turning to discount retail stores to find holiday gifts.

David and Dona Mitrany, both credit union employees, went to Ross Dress For Less Sunday to pick out gifts for three family members who decided last minute to join the family gathering at the Mitranys' house in Central Point.

"This is the only place where we've had to wait in line," Dona Mitrany said. "If you go to the mall, it's pretty sparse."

She said the selection of merchandise appeared to be thinner at department stores they had visited.

"I feel sorry for all those people who got up at 4 a.m. for the sales on Black Friday," David Mitrany said. "I noticed the stores still have the same sales."

His wife held up a dog's rain jacket she had in her cart intended for her dog, Remy, with a price tag of $5.99 at Ross.

"You would usually pay $29 for this," she said. "You find amazing values here."

"I'm starting to wonder if it's worth it," her husband quipped, as he looked at the long line in front of him.

Outside Ross Dress For Less, a satirical song from Le Show by Harry Shearer drifted out of an open car door, "Let the Fed take over St. Nick ... ," a reference to the U.S. government's hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts of banks and other corporations.

At Target on Medford's Crater Lake Highway, there was no wait at times Sunday to check out despite a crowd that was larger than usual.

"Everybody's blood pressure is up, especially when you just spent a ... load of money," one woman commented to her companion as she carted a basket of gifts out of Target Sunday afternoon.

"I remember last year it being just crazy, just really crazy," said Grants Pass resident Irene Boothe, as she and her daughter, Lisa Sell, left the mall. "This year, it's not that bad. People are really being careful."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or e-mail

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