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FARMINGTON — Shoppers jammed local stores on Monday, but some business people said the holiday season had been slow despite big crowds at some stores.

Christmas Eve customers filled local roads, especially near Animas Valley Mall and big-box stores on east Main Street. Falling snow got many into the holiday spirit.

"With the snow coming down, it makes it very enjoyable," said Laverne arrison of Kirtland.

Most local stores were open for limited hours Monday.

Harrison was in the mall doing some late shopping, including picking up a Chi hair curler for her 22-year-old daughter. She said she starts saving in October to buy her kids and grandchildren the items on their lists.

Shopkeepers gave mixed opinions about the holiday shopping season.

Kelly Garcia, owner of Mild to Wild Knives and Swords in the mall, said business was down by half.

"This is probably our worst Christmas season," she said. Mild to Wild hasbeen in the mall for 12 years.

Best-sellers at the gift shop included glasses and pocket knives with NFL team logos. Most shoppers seemed to be looking for gifts costing about $20, Garcia said.

"A lot of people are just broke," she said.

Another store owner who would not agree to be identified said business was slow but in line with recent years.

However, at Coach House Gifts in the mall, store manager Lana Campbell said business was good.

"I think we'll be up a little bit," she said.

Garcia said customers were buying Hallmark ornaments - a popular item among collectors - and gifts on sale, she said.

The National Retail Federation forecast a robust 4.1 percent sales gain compared to last year.

Several shoppers Monday said stores were busier over the weekend.

"I stood in line for three hours at Kmart (Sunday)," said Danelle Yazzie.

Yazzie was shopping with her boyfriend, Johnny Olivas, who lamented putting off his gift-buying as he battled crowds Monday.

"Got to a late start," he conceded. "It's crazy, man, shoulder to shoulder."

U.S. Army Spc. Evander Dutchie was in uniform at the mall on a break before he's deployed to Kuwait. A resident of Dennehotso, Ariz., Dutchie had some catching up to do.

"Last-minute stuff for my little brothers and sisters: toys, jackets, shoes," he explained.

Several shoppers said the economy didn't affect their buying decisions.

Among them was Wallace Charley, who lives on the Navajo Nation and purchased a pair of basketball shoes for a family member.

At Sears, store manager Jennifer Hackey said sales were "good so far," although she couldn't release specifics. Popular gifts included electronics, craftsman tools and winter clothing.

Hackey said shoppers appeared to be in a buying mood Monday.

"Today in particular, people are extremely happy," she said.

Some shoppers got lucky. Peter Muller of Fruitland was looking for Christmas tree when his wife saw the Boy Scout lot on 20th Street giving away trees for free. Muller pulled over and strapped a nearly 6-foot Noble fir to his Subaru.

"It's got a nice shape," he said.