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Retailers Better Watch Out, Better Not Cry, the Holiday Season Is Comin’ to Town

Retailers can expect better returns this holiday shopping season as opposed to last, but not much better, according to a new forecast report.

A New York-based research firm, GfK NOP LLC, released its annual Roper Report on the holiday shopping outlook Oct. 26, concluding that the consumer will spend a whopping $77 more on gifts this year than he or she did in 2005.

The increase is enough to rebound from last year’s slump but not surpass 2004 levels.

The national report, which polled 1,000 American adults via telephone Oct. 7 and 8, found that online shopping continues to increase, while the purchase of luxury items and gift cards appears to be leveling off from last year’s climb.

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The increase in consumer optimism is being attributed to lower gas prices and an uneventful hurricane season, according to Roper.

The report estimates that the average shopper will spend 10 percent more, or $857, on gifts this season, with the average man spending more than the average woman, at $946 and $771, respectively.

In San Diego, retail centers from all over the county are gearing up for the 2006 holiday season by spending a third or more of their annual marketing budget between now and Christmas.

Although the season officially begins the day after Thanksgiving , aka Black Friday , some centers have gotten an early start on their marketing campaigns.

“We need to start marketing ahead of the game every year,” said Michele Rothstein, senior vice president of marketing for Chelsea Property Group.

The New Jersey-based company owns Carlsbad Premium Outlets.

The 90-tenant center kicks off its holiday marketing Nov. 6 with the second annual Shop Under the Stars fund-raiser. The ticketed event features extended shopping hours, live entertainment, food and drink, and benefits local charities.

“It’s a great way to get people thinking about shopping, not only for themselves but for others,” said Rothstein.


This Matter Of Timing

Timing is a big issue for retailers this year as 39 percent of shoppers expect to be done with all their gift purchasing by Dec. 1, an increase compared with 2005 estimates, according to the Roper Report.

Fashion Valley Mall, which is owned by Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc., which also happens to own the Chelsea Property Group, plans to kick off the holidays with the Nov. 10 arrival of Santa Claus.

Locally owned American Indian property, the Viejas Outlet Center in East County, will officially kick off the season with a tree lighting Nov. 18. Marketing manager Nancy Kennedy said the ceremony will be repeated Nov. 19 in Spanish.

Escondido’s Westfield North County, one of seven San Diego County shopping malls owned by the Los Angeles-based Westfield Group, will welcome Santa in mid-November, but reserve the vast majority of its holiday marketing efforts for December.

Marketing director Kelly Nelson said this year, every Westfield property in the area has been directed to run the campaign that they feel best suits their target consumer, as opposed to previous years when corporatewide campaigns were ordered.

Nelson’s plan is to concentrate on early to mid-December when sales take a small dip before the last rush leading up to Christmas Day hits.

Westfield North County is concentrating on activities with tenants, including a fashion show and pampering event, to showcase retailers in the beauty market.


Midnight Madness

Whether they favor early or late marketing concentration, no one appears to be underestimating the power of Black Friday.

Last year, Carlsbad Premium Outlets was one of seven Chelsea Property Group sites nationwide to hold Midnight Madness, wherein shops open at 12:01 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The center will do it again this year, as will the Viejas Outlet Center.

Fashion Valley shops will also open earlier than usual, at 6 a.m.

Masa Liles, director of mall marketing for Fashion Valley, said the decision to open early was a direct result of seeing how successful similar properties were with Midnight Madness programs last year.

Raffle drawings, gift card giveaways and other free or discounted promotion deals will be used to help attract shoppers.

“All in all the merchants know this is an important time, they know to have the merchandise and the deals ready,” Chelsea’s Rothstein said.


Countering Clicks

According to Roper, 39 percent of people are expected to shop online this season for at least some gifts, up from 33 percent last year, 26 percent in 2004 and only 20 percent in 2003. Furthermore, 16 percent of Americans plan to do at least half their holiday shopping online, up 3 percent from 2005.

To combat the growing popularity of online shopping, area centers are paying more attention to creating a cheerful, merry d & #233;cor and ambience that can’t be found online.

Fashion Valley is getting a complete redo from past years, with brand-new decorations.

“Honestly, we just did the new d & #233;cor because it was time,” Fashion Valley’s Liles said. “The other decorations that we had were just past their prime.”

Roper suggests that shoppers are in the mood for a more traditional holiday because they want an escape from troublesome headlines.

“We think we’re doing a good job with the decorations,” Rothstein said. “An outlet center can’t compete with the d & #233;cor of a mall but we think we’re ready.”

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