Valley shoppers, stores prepare for holiday season



Ina Madison, 67, of Youngstown is a committed shopper. So, it’s no surprise that she plans to head out for the Black Friday shopping experience that starts Thanksgiving Day.

“I love the friendliness and the hustle and bustle of it,” she said. “I think it’s the love that’s shown in a lot of places. It’s like [there’s] a genuine concern the salespeople have.”

Madison is one of millions of shoppers who are prepping to buy as retailers get their shops ready. Typical of many shoppers, she also plans to buy holiday gifts on Cyber Monday.

This year, the National Retail Federation expects sales between November and December – excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales – to increase 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion year-over-year.

Nonstore sales are expected to increase

between 7 percent and 10 percent to as much $17 billion.

“All of the fundamentals are in a good place, giving strength to consumers and leading us to believe that this will be a very positive holiday season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

Retailers are expected to hire between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, in line with last year’s 675,300 new holiday positions.

Total planned spending this holiday season is expected to be $952.58 per shopper, according to the NRF’s annual consumer spending survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics,

Most consumers plan to shop at department stores first and then online stores and discount stores for the holidays.

Fifty-eight percent of consumers plan to buy for themselves, spending an average of $139.61, up 4 percent from last year’s $133.74 and marking the second-highest level of personal spending in the survey’s 13-year history.

Most consumers plan to start shopping in November.

Gift cards are still among the most popular gifts, followed by clothing and accessories and then books, CDs, DVDs or videos, according to the NRF.

Madison looks for the deals on computers and computer accessories. She also hopes to see a new Mercedes Benz under her tree this year.

“I just love Christmas,” she said. “I always have.”

Angelica Vega, 28, of Youngstown hopes to unwrap a new Canon T6I.

“I like to do photography,” she said. “I love capturing every moment.”

Vega is also a shopper. She plans to head out on Thanksgiving and do some shopping on Black Friday, too. Her stops this year will be the mall, Best Buy and the outlets.

“I love that so many people are so cooperative and nice,” she said of the Black Friday shopping experience.

Stores and shopping malls are decking the halls while they stock up on product and personnel for the business season.

“Late November through early January – that is typically the busiest time of year,” said Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for the Eastwood Mall Complex in Niles. “We like to think of it as a joyous time of year, too. We try to keep the air festive.”

Santa arrives at Eastwood on Nov. 12, so the decorating is underway to prepare for his arrival.

New this year, the mall has “Story Time” with Mrs. Claus on Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and Dec. 21.

Also new are the hours the mall is open. This year, the mall will open from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Thanksgiving and then from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Black Friday.

Best Buy prepares for the holiday by doing a Black Friday simulation with employees. Best Buy’s Black Friday hours haven’t been announced yet, but the electronics and appliance store has released its “Top Tech 20” gift list for this holiday season. The list includes Google Home, the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer, the Sony PlayStation VR, GoPro Hero5 Black and the DJI Mavic Pro Drone.

November and December “are two very important months for sure,” said Ryan Stanzel, Best Buy spokesman.

Southern Park Mall in Boardman hasn’t announced its hours, but it has announced its holiday events.

Santa will arrive to Southern Park at 10 a.m. Nov. 12. Santa will be at the mall for photos through Dec. 24. Pet Photos with Santa will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 20, Nov. 27 and Dec. 11. Holiday gift-wrapping will take place at the mall from Dec. 3 through Dec. 24. On Saturday, Dec. 10, the mall will have a “Holiday Boutique” with local artists selling gifts and live holiday entertainment.

“Southern Park Mall is pleased to present a variety of things to do in addition to things to buy,” said Lori Reda, marketing director at Southern Park, in a statement.

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