Indulging around the holidays isn’t just about eating; it’s about shopping, too.
Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are only a few days away for consumers who have their sights set on deep discounts and big bargains. Brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers, meanwhile, have launched Christmas and holiday sales in hopes of attracting throngs of customers.
“Of course, people shop all year long and there are lots of occasions to shop for, in addition to just recreational shopping,” said Deanna Miller, general manager of the Promenade Shops at Briargate in northern Colorado Springs. “But with such a big gift-giving occasion or several big gift-giving occasions in December, it’s just a much busier time.
“Retailers do about 15% to 30% of their entire year’s business just in the month of December,” Miller said, citing figures based on her retail industry experience. “So it’s incredibly important for them to capture those shoppers when they are in the buying mood. December is definitely that time of year.”
For Colorado Springs-area residents planning to head out to their favorite stores and shopping centers this week, or who are making online purchases, here are some things to know about the holiday season:
Which brick-and-mortar retailers will open Thanksgiving Day? Which will keep their doors closed?
The retail landscape has shifted in recent years. Some retailers that traditionally closed on Thanksgiving began to open by midday or early evening on the holiday to cater to shoppers clamoring for an early taste of Black Friday sales.
Now, the retail mindset has changed again. Some stores stay closed to allow employees to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families — and no doubt to curry favor with consumers who’ve grown weary of rampant commercialism usurping the spirit of a family holiday.
“It really depends on the individual retailer and what’s best for their employees, their businesses and their consumers,” said Katherine Cullen, senior industry and consumer insights director for the National Retail Federation, the industry’s largest trade group.
“We see some retailers who say that their consumers might be less interested in shopping on Thanksgiving Day and it doesn’t fit their business model, so maybe they’ll close down or only offer online shopping,” she said. “Others say that’s the time shoppers are really excited and they bring up their staffing to meet that (demand) and stay open. It really varies.”
In Colorado Springs, The Citadel and Chapel Hills malls — operated by the same New York ownership group — will be closed Thanksgiving. Mall department stores, movie theaters and retailers with exterior entrances will have the option to open Thursday; mall common areas, however, will be closed.
According to website TheBlackFriday.com, major retailers with a Colorado Springs presence that will close Thanksgiving include Ace Hardware, At Home, Barnes & Noble, Burlington, Costco, Dillard’s, H&M, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Marshalls, REI, Sam’s Club, Sierra Trading Post, Sportman’s Warehouse, SteinMart and T.J. Maxx.
Stores that will open on Thanksgiving include Bass Pro Shops, Best Buy, Big Lots, Gordmans, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target, Walgreens and Walmart, TheBlackFriday.com website shows. Hours vary by store.
Once you’re in their store, many brick-and-mortar retailers will do their best to keep you there.
The National Retail Federation refers to special events and activities inside stores as “retailtainment” — attractions designed to encourage consumers to stay longer and shop more. They’re especially popular around the holidays as consumers shop with friends and families, said Cullen.
Such activities and events might include early access to sales; product demonstrations and tutorials; and pop-up stores within a store.
In the case of higher-end retailers, Cullen said, they might even offer special services such as a tailor to make clothing adjustments or a concierge who can help shoppers with suggestions on picking out items and gifts.
Shopping online can be entertaining, but brick-and-mortar stores “can be an opportunity to kind of do something a little different and shop in a different way,” Cullen said.
“It’s really nice for people to go into a store and interact with someone or interact with a product and actually kind of see how it works or see how it looks on someone,” she said. “Cut through all the noise, in a sense, and get some guidance in their shopping.”
Miller, of the Promenade Shops at Briargate, said her shopping center will have an ice carving demonstration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Black Friday, along with live caroling that day and free coffee, hot chocolate and cookies. Victorian carolers also will stroll the shopping center on weekends in December.
Even though online retailers offer special sales and deep discounts on Cyber Monday, Miller said brick-and mortar stores still provide opportunities and experiences that can’t be found on the internet.
“There are things like apparel that people need to try on and look at in a mirror, and you can’t do that online,” she said. “There are restaurants; that experience you can’t get online. Especially on Black Friday, but throughout the holiday season, families shop together and dine together and sort of experience the season in person and together. And you can’t get that experience online.”
Small Business Saturday is a big day for local retailers.
Small Business Saturday, the nationwide promotion that takes place two days after Thanksgiving, encourages shoppers to patronize locally owned stores and restaurants.
Among events in the Pikes Peak region, the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership will distribute discount coupon books for downtown businesses and merchants starting at 10 a.m. Saturday in Acacia Park. The books will be handed out while supplies last.
A Christmas Stroll will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday along West Colorado Avenue in Old Colorado City on the Springs’ west side.
A Facebook page sponsored by the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center and local computer consultant Technowledge lists other Small Business Saturday activities; it can be found at www.facebook.com/pg/smallbizsatpikespeak/events.
Meanwhile, there are some temporary additions to the small-business landscape. Three pop-up shops have opened for the holidays in downtown Colorado Springs: Fair Finds Home Decor, 104 N. Tejon St., a high-end showroom for furniture and décor at discounted rates; the Local Honey Collective, 9 E. Bijou St., selling women’s apparel and accessories; and Luneiva, 226 N. Tejon St., marketing fair trade cotton and wool clothing and accessories from Nepal.
Enjoy shopping, but watch your pocketbook.
Colorado Springs police warn shoppers to be cautious during the holiday season.
Don’t leave credit cards, checkbooks or other personal items in a car while shopping — even if they’re in a trunk, said Detective Matt Hulett with the Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unit. And, of course, lock your vehicle.
“If somebody can get into the passenger compartment, they can get into the trunk,” he said.
Punching in a PIN number for a debit card purchase? Make sure nobody’s looking over your shoulder in hopes of stealing your PIN, Hulett said. Online consumers, meanwhile, should make certain they’re always on a retailer’s correct website and avoid shopping via links emailed to them.
Parents and grandparents who are sending checks to family members as gifts should always mail them at a post office and never leave them in a mailbox for a postal carrier to pick up and where thieves could grab them.
For consumers selling items on Craigslist to raise a little extra spending money for the holidays, watch out for buyers who might try to pay using counterfeit money, Hulett said. A $20 bill, for example, has special ink on the lower right front corner that shifts from gold to green, and back again, as it’s moved around.
If it doesn’t have the special ink, he said, “it’s either fake or it’s probably a really old bill.”
Colorado Springs police recently arrested three people related to a gift card scheme and warned shoppers to be wary of phony cards.
In the scam, thieves steal gift cards from a store, cut out their bar codes and replace them with codes from cards that already have been activated. When thieves replace a tampered card on a sales rack, a shopper who buys it risks loading the card with money that actually goes into the thieves’ account.
Hulett said shoppers should look closely at gift cards before purchasing them or ask a retailer to check the gift card at checkout to make sure it doesn’t carry a previous balance.
“Thoroughly examine that package, that cardboard envelope that the card is in,” Hulett said. “Give it a really good once-over. Maybe compare it to other similar cards that are a little deeper in the rack to see if it differs at all, if it feels thicker, if there’s any defects in the packaging, if it’s been ripped or anything like that.
“Obviously, like a fake ID, something might just look a little bit out of place.”