Tuesday, Dec. 24, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
The biggest shopping day of the year isn't the Friday after Thanksgiving for every retail outlet.
For 7-Eleven, the Dallas-based convenience store giant, Christmas is the biggest day of the year and more than 95 percent of the 5,100 U.S. 7-Eleven stores are open on Christmas Day.
The same percentage holds true for the 152 stores in Las Vegas, which have become destination points on Christmas Day, according to 7-Eleven Market Manager Bill Nolan.
He said that in 1962, Las Vegas was one of the first cities where 7-Elevens began staying open 24 hours.
Company lore also has it that Las Vegas was one of the first places where the convenience stores began staying open on Christmas.
"Some will be closed for a few hours, but very few close for the entire day. That's a decision that's entirely left up to the franchisee," said Nolan, adding that most employees don't seem to mind working the holiday.
Like store owner Rick Szuran.
He said his 7-Eleven on the corner of Sahara and Eastern avenues is a fun place on Christmas.
"Everybody who comes in is in a good mood and cheerful," said Szuran. "Customers bring us cookies and treats. And we know a lot of people on a first-name basis so it's just like being with a big extended family.
"There's no problem getting our eight employees to work. We work out the scheduling and everybody comes in. They just leave their families for a while to come and be with their work family."
Employees' families usually stop in too.
Szuran's 10-year-old daughter Katie and 12-year-old son Andy usually stop in.
"They really enjoy coming in to help out. We do have a lot of fun in here," he said.
Store owner Rosemary Loper said her Craig Road and Decatur Boulevard shop vibrates with Christmas spirit.
"We try to have a festive atmosphere. Customers bring in cookies and meals. I've worked many a Christmas and I don't mind at all. My family works around it. My daughter, grandkids and husband all come up to see me and bring me a nice plate of dinner. And my employees all say, 'If you need me, I'll work,' " she said.
Years of experience have taught 7-Eleven owners what Christmas Day shoppers want. Batteries, film, baking ingredients, wine, beer, soda and eggnog top the list.
There's also a need for wrapping paper, small toys, festive mugs, phone cards, cranberry sauce, bacon, eggs, munchies and ready-to-eat hot dogs.
"Hot dogs are one of our biggest sellers on Christmas day," Szuran said. "I think it's because people are waiting for the big meal toward the end of the day, so they come in to get out of the house for a few minutes and have a snack."
Some stores also stock up on regional and ethnic specialty items such as an Orlando, Fla., 7-Eleven that orders a big supply of Swanson frozen turkey dinners for the travelers staying in nearby hotels.
Sunglasses and sunscreen are big Christmas Day sellers at a 7-Eleven in Southern California.
Scandanavian 7-Elevens are prepared with pastries: Lussekat buns and herring in Sweden; Dromme Boller and Traestammer in Denmark; and Solskins Bulle in Norway.
In Monterrey, Mexico, 7-Eleven stores order special dark beers and in Mexico City, cold apple cider is a holiday favorite.
"But basically, everyday items become best sellers during the holidays," Nolan said. "It's different on a holiday. People are so busy, the convenience store is very important."
The holiday planning starts in September, when the marketing department sends lists to 7-Eleven stores around the country. Nolan said they are reminders to store managers about the important items they'll need to have on hand.
"In January, the managers and owners get together to see what the trends are, what we missed and what we'll need in the future. Then in September they get together again. There's a lot of planning, and it works out well for everyone. Christmas is a good day," he said.