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Illinois Appliance Rebate: Early Birds Get The Rebates

Illinois retailers group says $3 million in federal money for energy-efficient appliances was gone in about 2 hours

By Emily Bryson York

Anyone hoping to cash in on Friday's federal stimulus money program, which allowed for a 15 percent discount on energy-saving appliances, needed to arrive at stores early — very early.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association said the $3 million in federal money to support the purchases of energy-efficient appliances was gone in about two hours. With many stores opening early, the program was shut down at 10:30 a.m.

"This made Black Friday look like a Tuesday in July," Illinois Retail Merchants Association President David Vite said in a statement. "Sales have never been so brisk in Illinois."

Sears stores throughout Illinois opened at 7 a.m. to meet the demand. At Abt Electronics, in Glenview, consumers started lining up at 4 a.m., enduring a three-hour wait in the rain.

Jon Abt, co-president of Abt Electronics, said there were 1,000 people in line when doors opened early at 7 a.m. Participating stores, which reported sales to the government hourly, had been advised of a two-hour warning before the program ended. But at 10 a.m., stores received a 30-minute warning.

"I think the bulk of the money went in the first hour," he said, adding that Abt had expected the program to last until at least noon. "People were conditioned, and they wanted a good deal today."

A spokesman for the association said that $3 million in credits translates to $20 million in energy-efficient appliances.

This is the most recent round of energy-savings rebates for Illinois. In April, consumers zoomed through more than $6 million in rebates for refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers and other appliances in 11 hours. The promotion had been planned for 10 days.

These types of programs bring business to appliance stores that specialize in high-ticket items. Abt said the April event was the biggest sales day in his company's 74-year history. However, Abt's sales in the first hour Friday were twice what the company posted during first hour of sales of the April extravaganza, the company said.

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