“It’s gonna get pretty wild in here, pretty quick. Should be fun,” Wilton Mall manager Mike Shaffer said with a grin Saturday morning.
He had a good reason to be grinning — since Christmas falls on Tuesday this year, retailers have a full, long weekend to promote sales and attract consumers.
The Wilton Mall was festive on Saturday. WYJB-FM (B95.5) was broadcasting from the center of the mall, playing Christmas music. Santa Claus, his elves, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer held court nearby and entertained small groups of happy-looking children. Ribbons, wreaths and snowflakes hung everywhere, creating a patchwork of red, green, blue and gingerbread brown.
Shoppers said they were either making last-minute trips or were finished shopping and had come to watch the chaos. Many shoppers said that they were too busy to talk. “Happy holidays,” became a breathless parting cry shoppers made over their shoulders to cashiers as they plunged back into the crowd.
The Dakota Watch Company booth was surrounded by people who were bringing watches to be repaired or have new batteries installed. A pair of shoppers exiting the H&M store had to stop and reorient themselves before continuing on.
“Where exactly are we, anyway?” they asked each other.
But the holiday spirit wasn’t forgotten by everyone. With all the focus on sales and shopping, the holiday spirit can sometimes get lost in the mix, but Julie Demaree of Saratoga Springs and her family were at the mall shopping for winter coats, clothes and toys for a homeless family she had learned about through her job.
“I work in health care. … Everyone in my office is out shopping for them today,” she said.
Shaffer said he expected Saturday to be as busy or busier than Black Friday and for sales in all categories of items to increase.
“We’re all queued up for the final weekend. This is one of the longest stretches from Thanksgiving to Christmas that we’ve had in a while,” he said.
According to the National Retail Federation, in an article posted on its website, www.nrf.com, holiday sales will increase this year by 4.1 percent. Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay called it “… the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession.”
Susan Spaccarelli, marketing manager for Colonie Center, said Capital Region retailers are offering Black Friday-proportioned deals and raking in business for the final days before Christmas. She said many shoppers were taking advantage of Christmas sales and buying for themselves, as well as for others.
“Leading up to the 10 days before Christmas, most people have about half their shopping finished. They get the second half done in those last 10 days,” she said.
The popular items at Colonie Center this season were clothing and luxury brands, as well as small appliances, Spaccarelli said.
At Wilton Mall, Shaffer said, “Colored jeans are particularly popular this year. Bright colors in general, really.”
He also expected electronics to be popular sellers.
Dan Shevlin, owner and general manager of Game Xchange, said it’s been a big week for his video game store in the Wilton Mall. His most popular items have been the video games Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and the retro N64 video game console.
“Retro games have been flying off the shelves,” he said. “They’re popular and cheaper than the newer games.”
Toy store ToyZam! was also busy Saturday. Just like at Game Xchange, spokeswoman Kristine Tomlinson said some of ToyZam!’s most popular toys were the retro, “old-time toys that nobody can find anymore,” like Furby, Etch-A-Sketch, and Jack-in-the-box.
“Absolutely everyone has been coming in here and asking for Jack-in-the-boxes. They’re difficult to find,” she said.
A spokeswoman for an Express store in the mall said they were making steady sales but it was not as busy as it was last year. She also agreed with Shaffer that colored jeans were a hot item.
“I must have every color of the rainbow in my closet,” she said.
The busy day wasn’t limited to the malls, either. At Celtic Treasures, an Irish imports gift shop on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, business was booming, according to owner Paul O’Donnell.
“It’s been great. I won’t know until the dust has settled, but I think we’re hitting good goals and we’re up for the year,” he said.
A spokesman for Goldstock’s Sporting Goods in Glenville said “We’re holding our own really well. It’s been really busy here; we get a lot of traffic. We’re so weather driven now, [business] depends on how cold it gets.”
Spokesman Tony Giles for Hermie’s Music Store in Schenectady said their business has been slow, “but this is a real music store, not like Guitar Center, where they can just slash the prices.”
He said that they mostly sell stocking stuffers and accessories like music stands during the holiday season.