902 people rode the Rail Runner on “Black Friday,” Nov. 27, most of whom were bound for Santa Fe from Albuquerque, according to the Mid-Region Council of Governments, which runs the train.
375 people took the Rail Runner on that day last year.
"Black Friday shoppers: As you know, they’re a different breed." —MRCOG spokeswoman Augusta Meyers
What did Black Friday, long said to be the biggest shopping day of the year, mean for Santa Fe? The answer is a resounding "meh."
It's too soon for local business associations to have collected sales figures, but the consensus of merchants reached by SFR was that the post-Thanksgiving consumergasm benefits big-box gadget dealers, which can offer deep discounts, much more than homegrown shops and galleries.
"It's boggled my mind how to get people in on Black Friday without giving the store away," John Valdes, owner of Valdes Art Workshops, says. "I've waited for 20 years for this to be the biggest shopping day of the year, and they're all at the mall."
Other merchants echo that sentiment. "In 15 years, it's never been our biggest day of the holiday season," Kent Little, owner of Sangre De Cristo Mountain Works, says. Still, "we had a good weekend—short of people who were camping out for Nintendo DSes."
Little's shop is near the Rail Runner depot but, he says, "We're not seeing any dramatic pulses in our business when the train lets off. They're basically grabbing everybody who gets off the train and busing them downtown."
Smaller-ticket vendors felt a somewhat bigger bump. "Friday night started to get a little quiet. Saturday was a good day," Robb Rael, an artist and organizer for the Contemporary Hispanic Winter Market, says. Weekend attendance was up approximately 10 percent this year compared to last year, Rael says, with the market's 38 artists making an average of $5,000-$10,000 in sales.
He credits free parking and the Rail Runner traffic for that increase. Before successful lobbying by local politicians and downtown merchants, the train wasn't even set to run on Black Friday. "Our schedules are set more than a year in advance. People thought, 'Well, this really hasn't been a big day. People [usually] take their car to the mall and fill up their trunks," MRCOG's Meyers says.
Meyers says the big boost in ridership will "definitely be a consideration when they look at the schedule for next year."