With holiday competition tougher than ever, more ideas are popping up to get shoppers into stores — and spending even earlier in the season.
From pop-up stores to pop-up events, malls are trying ever earlier Black Friday promotions, often starting on Thanksgiving. One Northland shopping center, Zona Rosa, is even pushing Black Friday promotions to the day before Thanksgiving — hoping its Orange Wednesday will become a new tradition.
With no “must have” toy or apparel pieces on the holiday horizon, malls are upping their pop-up offerings, turning to unique, local retailers — as well as temporary stores for national brands — and holding shorter, one-of-a-kind pop-up events.
“Shoppers are passionate for something new and different. And therein lies the problem,” said Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, New York-based market researchers.
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Six years ago, the Northland’s Zona Rosa moved up its traditional Black Friday festivities to midnight Thursday. The consumer response was overwhelming, with lines of cars snaking out of the center, down Barry Road and even onto Interstate 29.
The center had a competitive edge that year, but since then more and more retailers across the country are opening ever earlier on Thanksgiving Day — 10 p.m., then 8 p.m. even 8 a.m. — with specials they used to start running a day later.
This year Zona Rosa surveyed its customers, merchants and employees, and found they are no longer so sold on Thanksgiving shopping, preferring to spend the day with family.
But they still want the deals.
So Zona Rosa is rolling out another new holiday promotion — “Orange Wednesday is the new Black Friday” — on Nov. 26.
Historically, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has been a slow night for retail but a strong night for restaurants. But from 6 to 10 p.m. that Wednesday, Zona Rosa will offer more than $10,000 in prize drawings, restaurant discounts (for example, $10 off a $30 order at Abuelo’s), and giveaways.
“You can’t just keep infringing on the holiday. But what can we do that is something new and fresh and that sets up apart from the competition? But not make employees work these crazy hours,” said Rosemary Salerno, general manager of Zona Rosa. “Obviously we want people to get out and shop and support our retailers. We thought this was an interesting twist. And we what are going to love about it is we will be the first to offer the deals.”
Some Zona Rosa stores also will be open on Thanksgiving, but the center is “officially closed” that day until it reopens at 8 a.m. on Black Friday for more great deals and specials.
Other area malls and retailers are still working out their Black Friday promotions, but tentative hours at some of the area’s larger shopping centers:
▪ Independence Center plans to open at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving (compared with 8 p.m. in 2013) and stay open until 1 a.m. on Black Friday. Then it will shut down for a few hours and reopen at 6 a.m. Nov. 28. Along with special promotions, shoppers will get a complimentary “Shopping Survival Kit” that includes coupons and a free bottle of water.
▪ Legends Outlets Kansas City in Kansas City, Kan., will officially open for Black Friday promotions and giveaways at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving and run through 9 p.m. Friday Nov. 28. Some stores, though, plan to open earlier on Thanksgiving. Events will include a free midnight movie Thanksgiving night — determined by the center’s Facebook fans.
▪ Overland Park’s Oak Park Mall will officially open for Black Friday promotions at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving (compared with 8 p.m. in 2013) along with more than 60 retailers such as anchor Macy’s, as well as specialty shopes such as the Microsoft Store and Build-A-Bear Workshop. J.C. Penney will open at 5 p.m. Thanksgiving.
Events popping up
There’s nothing festive about dark, empty stores.
So this year Leawood sister shopping centers — Town Center Plaza and Town Center Crossing — are hosting two events to temporarily fill a couple of those spaces.
“The pop-ups are a vehicle to draw in shoppers who may not have been here for a time, and then they will come back during the season,” said Kara Lowe, spokeswoman for the two Leawood centers.
Leftover Luxuries didn’t set out to be a local holiday pop-up; it just worked out that way. The high-end consignment store company opens pop-ups for a few days around the country, selling new and barely used home furniture and decorative accessories, as well as designer clothing, handbags, and shoes.
Local partner Julie Goldsborough wanted a spot in Leawood, specifically the former Restoration Hardware space in Town Center Plaza. But she had to wait until another pop-up, Halloween City, finished its season and turned over the space. On Monday, she started stocking the store for the event, which will be open Friday through Nov. 23.
Goldsborough already has new rugs from a name-brand company, as well as new clothing, lamps, jewelry and handbags.
“The timing couldn’t have been better. People can redecorate for the holidays, buy clothing for cocktail parties and shop for holiday gifts,” Goldsborough said.
She expects consignors to continue to bring in new merchandise during the event. They price their own items and walk away with 55 percent of the sale price. Starting Nov. 21, remaining inventory will be discounted.
Shoppers also are expected hit other Town Center Plaza and Town Center Crossing restaurants and retailers after visiting the pop-ups.
“We want to offer a unique collection of merchandise that complements what we already offer. You want a good merchandise mix and not something that is in direct competition with one of existing merchants,” said Lowe of Town Center Plaza and Town Center Crossing.
Overland Park’s Just for Her Expo Inc. will hold its first The Holiday Chick Event with more than 65 local artists and businesses selling jewelry, holiday decor, clothing and accessories, art, bath and body items, pottery, gifts for pets and more. The event with run from Thursday through Sunday in the former Love Culture space in Town Center Crossing.
And some of the original pop-up events, which started before the term was born, are still going.
The Junior League of Kansas City, Mo., opened its first Holiday Mart in 1988, welcoming 10,000 shoppers and raising $94,000. Since then it has raised more than $9 million to support the league’s community projects. This year’s event ran Oct. 16-19 at Bartle Hall with vendors from across the country offering unique specialty foods, apparel and accessories, holiday decor and other items.
A similar event, the Holiday Boutique, ran Nov. 6-9 at the Overland Park Convention Center.
Pop-up stores, which tend to run through the season, also are taking some empty mall spaces.
For the third year in a row, Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Co. has opened a Boulevard Dry Goods store on the Country Club Plaza. Along with brand names such as Patagonia, the brewery has partnered with local businesses to create unique beer-themed products such as new posters from Hammerpress and soaps by Indigo Wild.
“It’s an opportunity to spread the word about the brand,” said Amber Ayres, the brewery’s director of guest relations. “We always have a gift shop year-round at the brewery, but a lot of people don’t know about it.”
The shop also offers complimentary beer samplings throughout the holiday season and will have meet-and-greets with brewery employees, KC Pet Project animals and Sporting Kansas City players. Among the most popular items this year is its new Boulevard BBQ Sauce with 80-Acre hoppy wheat beer and jalapenos, and a Tank 7-infused sea salt.
Red Dirt Shop, a Kansas City-based company offering limited-edition fashion and accessories made in partnership with artists — local and from around the world — opened its first pop-up in late October on the Plaza. Each product sold finances one year of clean water access for someone in need. Items include iPhone cases, apparel, water bottles, and leather clutches, wallets and messenger bags.
“It’s wonderful for us to meet with customers face-to-face because prior to this we have only existed online,” said Christina Eldridge, chief executive officer and co-founder of Red Dirt Shop.
With many tourists coming to the Plaza during the holidays, it also will expose Red Dirt to new markets, she said.
Tom Paolini recently opened Paolini Garment Co. on the Country Club Plaza. This month he opened a pop-up with Sporting Kansas City’s Aurélien Collin in the Power & Light District.
The shop took the upper level of the Garment District collective boutique co-op. It offers the full line of the AC78 brand, including men’s suits, T-Shirts, v-neck sweaters, cardigans, polo-type shirts, and women’s T-shirts and tanks, as well as Paolini’s line of men’s accessories including wool ties. The pop-up will operate until early January.
“The downtown store offers easier access and exposure to clients all over the city, and we think the downtown shopper might be slightly different than the Plaza shopper,” Paolini said. “I think companies do a pop-up as a test. That’s what we are trying to figure out. Then we will certainly have a conversation about staying.”
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Holiday retail by the numbers
▪ Market researcher WSL is predicting just a 2 percent increase in holiday sales, but the National Retail Federation expects sales to increase by 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.
▪ The federation’s recent survey had consumers spending $804.42 on average, compared with $767.27 in 2013. Buying “gifts” for one’s self is expected to decrease this year to $126.68 on average, down from $134.77 in 2013.
▪ About 56 percent of consumers plan to shop online, up from 51.5 percent in 2013 and the most in the survey’s 13-year history, and consumers will do 44.4 percent of their shopping online.
▪ Gift cards are still the most requested gift, followed by clothing, books, CDs, DVDs, or video games, and electronics.
▪ According to market researchers the NPD Group, wearable fitness devices also will be hot gifts this year.