Every year, Heather Hull and her family drive from Liberal to Dodge City and then to Garden City to check out post-Christmas sales.

    And this year was no different.

    Every year, Heather Hull and her family drive from Liberal to Dodge City and then to Garden City to check out post-Christmas sales.
    And this year was no different.
    About two hours after Hull arrived in Dodge City Friday morning, she took a minute to rest on one of the benches at Village Square Mall. Two large, brightly colored shopping bags filled with a variety of items sat at her feet.
    Hull said she had come to Dodge to look for bargains, but she wasn't searching for anything specific.
    "We have Christmas money to spend, so whatever we can find," she said.
    Shoppers flocked to stores across Dodge City on Friday, searching for bargains on holiday merchandise or belated Christmas gifts. Many local retailers reported steady shopping traffic throughout the day.
    Spearville resident Deana Letterle was browsing through the aisles in Wal-Mart's holiday area, hoping to take advantage of post-holiday deals on gift items.
    "We haven't had our Christmas yet, so anything will work," she said.
    She said she had found some good bargains so far and would continue looking at Wal-Mart and other stores.
    Dodge City resident Jamie Morris was also checking out Wal-Mart's aisles with her daughters, who wanted to see what the store had on sale. She said she had found some good deals on pet supplies and pajamas so far.
    "That's as far as we've gotten,"  Morris said.
    Holiday sales
    The national recession, combined with bad weather in many parts of the United States, added up to a dismal shopping season for many retailers across the country.
    Total retail sales for November and December dropped between 5.5 percent and 8 percent, according to Friday's edition of the macroeconomic report SpendingPulse. The report by MasterCard Advisors estimates retail sales.
    But economic woes elsewhere didn't seem to affect Dodge City retailers, who generally reported good sales.
    Tandy's Hallmark store manager Deb Bratton said that the economic downturn did not really affect the store's holiday sales. She added that the store enjoyed a healthy shopping season overall and good sales traffic on Friday.
    "We always have a good turnout after Christmas because of the kind of items we stock," she said.
    Bratton said that some shoppers were picking up belated gifts, while others were stocking up on holiday-themed merchandise — including wrapping paper and ribbons — for next year.
    Stage manager Jodi Conrardy said her store's sales have been healthy since Thanksgiving, and Friday was another strong shopping day.
    "I can't give you numbers, but it's better than we expected," she said, adding that this year's sales were stronger than last year.
    But not every local retailer reported a strong shopping season.
    Christopher and Banks manager Erma Alger blamed the nation's economic woes for a slight, but not dramatic, drop in holiday sales this year compared with Christmas 2007.
    "But I think they would have been if we hadn't had all the sales," she said. "We had a lot of promotions, and people are looking for bargains."
    Alger said that Friday's traffic was steady but would not offset disappointing sales for the past six months. Still, she hoped that gift-card sales would help make up some of the difference.
    "We sold a lot of gift cards, so we're hoping they're coming back," she said.
    Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or e-mail him at eric.swanson@dodgeglobe.com.