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Local retailers feel 'adventurous' this holiday season

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Neil Johnson
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

JANESVILLEIn local poinsettia circles, pink might be the new red.

At the very least, pink is the newest mini-trend that's part of one retailer's holiday push this year.

Over the last week, K&W Greenery has unveiled an all-new hybrid poinsettia known as the “Princettia”—a plant with leaves that are hot pink instead of the standard red. Owner Jordan Graffin showed off the eye-catching plants as the retailer entered the thick of its annual holiday sales.

“It's like clothing trends at the holidays," Graffin said. "There's timeless classics, which are the red poinsettias we always have. They'll always be the most popular color. Then there's the new fashion of the year that's different, a little trendy. Hot-pink poinsettias sort of capture that adventurous side."

While pink might not be for everyone, local retailers might have cause to make a few adventurous moves this season.

If local spending trends line up with some national forecasts, the average holiday shopper could spend upward of $750 this year on Christmas gifts—a 47 percent jump over last year.

That's the forecast by RetailMeNot, an analyst that advises retailers on shopping trends. The same group indicated in a recent survey that retailers plan to capture freer discretionary spending by spreading the shopping season over more days.

Nearly half of retailers, the survey said, plan to unleash many of their biggest deals late in the season, during the “last minute” days before Christmas.

And an even greater number of retailers—80 percent of those surveyed—were poised to offer early holiday deals, or at least market more heavily in the weeks leading up to Black Friday and afterward.

That strategy doesn't take Black Friday sales out of the equation, but it buttresses the season with more incentives for shoppers over more time. Besides keying in on a projected surge in spending, retailers were watching another predicted trend—that nearly half of holiday shoppers would attack their shopping lists in October or early November.

In 2015, Rock County shoppers spent $451 million between Thanksgiving weekend and the end of December, according to state Department of Revenue sales tax data. That was a 10 percent climb from the year before.

Last year, county shoppers spent about $467 million—a smaller increase but still a 3.1 percent jump over 2015.

K&W typically holds its biggest holiday sale a week before the Thanksgiving weekend. As the economy has continued to recover, Graffin said her greenhouse's early jump on holiday sales has paid off more and more.

“What we've seen is our numbers have gone up every year since the recession ended, and thank goodness," she said.

"It's not 1998 again, but people's demeanor has changed. It's not that they feel they have to spend money. They want to. We know this because what we sell here is a want, not a need. That's a very difficult thing to sell when money is more tight.”

Buoyed by the consumer confidence it saw last year, K&W started growing 2,500 poinsettias in July. Graffin said that's the most poinsettias K&W can conceivably fit in its greenhouse.

Graffin said K&W is already on pace to sell more poinsettias than last year, and sales of home décor and “green gifts” such as countertop herb gardens are on the upswing, too.

The National Retail Federation in a survey predicts Legos—the toy block building sets—will be a top seller this season, with more than 1 in 10 shoppers predicted to buy at least one set.

At Target in Janesville, Lego sets have taken over the shelves on both sides of an entire toy aisle. Many sets are “Star Wars” themed, a reminder that with every pop-culture trend must come a corresponding toy.

All told, a Gazette reporter counted about 200 different Lego sets at Target, an inventory that a clerk said was “similar” to last year.

The National Retail Federation also expects gift card sales to jump this year. Nearly 60 percent of gift card buyers will opt for restaurant gift cards, the federation's survey predicted.

That doesn't surprise Tiffany Anderson, who manages Famous Dave's restaurant on the northeast side. She said shoppers have flocked to the restaurant for gift cards in past years.

“Half our restaurant sales on Christmas Eve the last few years have been Famous Dave's gift cards. They've sold like crazy. It's like a last-minute go-to,” Anderson said.

Among the items the federation says will see a late-December boost: books and music.

Drew Metter, who manages Exclusive Company, a record store in Janesville, said his company is again hosting a Record Store Day sale that coincides with Black Friday. The store will roll out a bevy of new releases, including vinyl copies of veteran rock group Cheap Trick's brand-new holiday album, “Christmas Christmas.”

Metter expects his store will continue to fight against digital music sellers and online giants such as Amazon. But he said he's seen a boost in holiday shoppers grabbing last-minute music purchases over the last few years—often vinyl, the segment of hard-copy sales that analysts say has shown the biggest resurgence.

The National Retail Federation survey predicts that this year, 44 percent of holiday shoppers will buy at least one music item.

“Boy, I hope that's true,” Metter said.



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