Written by The Business Journal Staff
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the average American plans to spend $935.58 on gifts this year — 4 percent more than they spent during the 2015 holiday season. The NRF’s forecast predicts retail sales, excluding autos, gas and restaurants, will increase 3.6 percent this November and December to $655.8 billion, and online sales will increase between 7 and 10 percent to as much as $117 billion.
Fresno retailers are hoping these percentages will translate at the local level and each shopping center is pulling out the promotional stops to attract consumers to their stores.
Fresno’s Fashion Fair Mall is kicking off the season early, with a free holiday concert Sunday featuring American Idol winner Kris Allen starting at 6 p.m. just outside the mall’s main entrance. Fashion Fair will also have an exciting new Santa headquarters, “Santa HQ,” presented by HGTV.
Brian Malony, the senior marketing manager at Macerich, Fashion Fair’s owner, said Santa HQ is an interactive holiday experience that is new to the Central Valley.
“It has some great digital elements, like augmented reality,” Malony said.
The popular mobile game Pokemon Go uses augmented reality in its game play.
Santa HQ bills itself as a “21st century immersive journey” that includes the classic photo with Santa Claus, but also an “Elfie selfie” that allows guests to star in their own holiday video, “Elf-Ray Vision” to explore Santa’s observatory, a “Naughty or Nice O’Meter” and a 10,000-light synchronized show to the tune of Carol of the Bells.
Malony said Santa HQ will launch Nov. 4 and runs seven days week through Dec. 24, excluding Thanksgiving Day.
For Black Friday, Malony said Fashion Fair will open at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, close at midnight, and then reopen at 6 a.m.
“This is similar to what we’ve done the last couple of years,” Malony said. “We used to stay open for 26 hours straight but we changed that for a number of reasons, mainly to better serve customers at the time they want to shop.”
In addition to Santa HQ, Malony said Fashion Fair is partnering with local nonprofits to spread cheer this holiday season. The Salvation Army and Marjaree Mason Center will each have a Christmas tree in the mall, giving shoppers an opportunity to give to those in need, and Toys for Tots bins will be set up throughout the mall from Nov. 28 to Dec. 16 for those wanting to donate a toy. The first three Tuesdays in December, Fashion Fair’s Santa HQ will also be welcoming an interpreter so deaf and hard of hearing children can ask Santa for a gift.
New stores at Fashion Fair this holiday season include Box Lunch, a unique apparel and gifts store with “nerd chic” merchandise for fans of shows and movies like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and DC and Marvel superheroes; Victoria Secret’s new PINK store; and an Amazon pop-up kiosk that sells Amazon devices, such as the kindle. There are also seasonal stores like Hickory Farms and several kiosks selling this season’s hot holiday gift items, like the ChillOut Buddy, an inflatable portable sofa.
Heading east on Shaw Avenue, Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis will have three promotions on Black Friday. The first is a gift card giveaway, which starts when the mall opens at 6 a.m. when the first 200 shoppers will receive gift cards varying in amounts from $10 to $100. Then, at 8 a.m., there will be a free breakfast with the police department’s newest K9 officer, Murphy. The third promotion, from 1 to 3 p.m., will be the Cash Cube.
“Shoppers can bring their receipts from that day’s shopping at Sierra Vista Mall retailers and for every $150 spent, they are given 10 seconds in the Cash Cube and they can win cash and gift cards and other prizes our retailers are giving away,” Sierra Vista Marketing Director Natalie Khan said. “We did this last year for Black Friday and also later in the holiday season and for back to school and it has been a huge success.”
Like Fashion Fair, Sierra Vista also has seasonal tenants, including Ivy Cottage, Hickory Farms and Cell Access Electronics.
In the South Valley, Tulare Outlets is hosting its Midnight Madness event for the ninth consecutive season, with retailers opening their doors at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and staying open until 9 p.m. on Black Friday. General Manager Patty Rocha said the outlets anticipate 60,000 shoppers between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“We were opening on Thanksgiving before other retailers started doing it, so for four or five years we were one of the only ones,” Rocha said. “Now, most retailers are onboard doing something like this to meet customer demand. The Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping has become an event for many families. It’s something they do together after the big meal is over.”
“We believe holidays are important for families and we don’t want to interfere with the Thanksgiving holiday and the 10 o’clock hour really doesn’t interfere because the meal is long over,” Rocha added. “Our employees are able to tuck their kids in bed before going to work and the moms and dads who like to go shopping are able to do that too. Often, they go shopping together and bring the older kids.”
As an outlet mall, Rocha said Tulare Outlets is known for having the best deals year round, but Black Friday deals are even better.
Door buster deals and sales information won’t be made available until days before Black Friday, but shopping center managers say consumers can count on department stores for big savings.
“I don’t know of the door busters going on because many of the stores don’t know officially for another couple of weeks,” Don Veatch with River Park Property Management said. “I know all the department stores have something going on.”
Department stores will have hours separate from, and often later and earlier, than the rest of the mall.
Macy’s will open at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving and most locations will close at 2 a.m. and reopen at 6 p.m. Kohl’s and Sears are both set to open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. JCPenney locations are set to open as early at 3 p.m. Thanksgiving.
Online sales are expected to start even earlier. Amazon.com, for example, has already started its Countdown to Black Friday Deals, with different sales going on each day and week leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.