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With metro holiday sales strong last year, many believe it will be another good year, especially with new venues, such as the Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City, in the mix.
Retailers around the country are hoping for a holly, jolly Christmas after a few lean years. The local outlook, however, is even more positive.
Most agree that 2008 and 2009 were tough, with a slight resurgence last year. The National Retail Federation forecast for holiday spending this year is expected to be up 2.8% over 2010. While that increase would spell $465.6 billion, the number is down from last year when the NRF tracked a 5.2% increase in spending over 2009.
right, Shoppers at OKC's Outlet Shoppes
Closer to home, Alison Oshel, community redevelopment director with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, says the local market has outpaced the national numbers in holiday spending over the last few years.
For 2010, Oshel says local sales posted a 12.2% increase over 2009. While nationally, holiday sales have increased on average 2.6% over the past decade, locally that increase has been 4.5%. The NRF defines “holiday sales” as retail industry spending in the months of November and December.
“Our local sales increases in 2010 were significantly stronger than the national average,” Oshel says. “Because of this relative strength, we may have rebounded more quickly than the rest of the nation.”
But all is not necessarily rosy. Oshel says calendar year 2009 was the weakest since 2004 for holiday sales in the metro area; however, when the stock market recovered, people began to spend more.
This year, she is concerned that retail spending could take a hit since the personal wealth of many has taken a hit, due to a decline in stock portfolio values.
“It will be interesting to see if we have a similar pullback on holiday purchasing because of this,” she says.
From well-established malls to new products in the market such as the Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City, 7624 W. Reno Ave., which opened this summer, metro retailers offer shoppers upscale stores, national chains and discount options.
Slechta, vice president of marketing with Horizon Group Properties, the
outlet mall’s owner, says it opened strong in late August, and has
shown no signs of slowing down. It opened at 100% occupancy with stores
ranging from those new to the market — Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth,
Brooks Brothers and BCBGMAXAZRIA — as well as staples like Banana
Republic and Gap.
right, Kevyn Colburn, vice president of leasing for Northpark Mall owner
Slechta says the company’s outlet malls expect about 35,000 visitors per day during the initial opening period. The Oklahoma City mall averaged about 65,000 visitors per day in the first weeks.
“This has been one of the strongest openings in the country in the past couple of years,” she says.
Even now, Slechta says mall traffic is trending upward of 20% more than the company initially expected. But will those crowds continue to grow for the holidays?
“The outlet industry as a whole saw increases in 2008 and 2009,” she says. “People still want name-brand goods, and they naturally turned to the outlets to save, but still have quality products.”
Slechta also says consumers still want deals, and are not ashamed to tell others how much they saved on purchases of name-brand items.
“There’s a culture out there where people brag about their bargains,” she says. “It’s cool to save.”
Oshel says the outlet mall is expected to be a regional draw for holiday shopping. And while those out-of-metro visitors are here, the chamber hopes they will frequent other stores and malls.
“That should bode well for our other retailers who should be able to draw from that new customer base,” she says.
Then there are those malls that don’t necessarily cater to the shopper looking for a deal. Northpark Mall, at the southeast corner of N.W. 122nd Street and May Avenue, includes a mix of retailers – many high-end, and nearly all local. Northpark is not the kind of place shoppers head for a new big-screen television, a gaming system or “door-buster” deals.
It did suffer as a result of the recession, says Kevyn Colburn, vice president of leasing. She says 2009 was the toughest year for Northpark, with occupancy consistently in the high 80s, but not tough enough to spell disaster.
“We have not lost any tenants,” she says.
“We have really been able to hold our own.”
With what Colburn describes as a significant increase in sales last year, she is hopeful the 2011 holiday shopping season will bring Christmas cheer to her merchants’ doors. This year, in addition to longtime tenants such as Jerome’s, B.C. Clark and Geno’s Furs, the mall added men’s clothier S.J. Haggard & Co. to its roster.
With everything from dollar movies to frozen yogurt at Northpark, Colburn remains optimistic.
“We’re anticipating a very good year,” she says.