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November 15, 2012

Retailers: Economy instills caution in holiday shoppers

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

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Retailers: Economy instills caution in holiday shoppers
Store owner Aric Klar stoops beside a Kickboard scooter at his toy store, Toyology, in West Bloomfield’s Orchard Mall Nov. 14. The scooter is expected to be one of the store’s popular gift ideas for the holidays.

Year-end national budget talks and a looming “fiscal cliff” have frayed the nerves of some anxious analysts, but businesses in the West Bloomfield area are ready to plunge into the holiday shopping season.

Aric Klar, owner of Toyology in West Bloomfield, expected this year’s holiday season to differ from last year’s, since Hanukkah and Christmas won’t be overlapping.

However, he was optimistic that shoppers would seek out his collection of educational and quirky toys — such as the Kickboard scooter, the Perplexus maze ball and the Big Bag of Science experiment kit.

“I think people understand where we’re trying to go as far as our niche,” Klar said. “People are starting to grasp our idea more efficiently.”

It remains unclear how the economy will impact the holiday season, but two retail watch groups are expressing confidence.

The National Retail Federation predicts that shoppers will “take a conservative approach with their gift-giving budgets.” However, it also predicts that holiday sales will rise to $586.1 billion: a 4.1 percent boost compared to last year. 

Closer to home, the Michigan Retailers Association reported that 43 percent of state retailers polled believed sales would increase by more than five percent, and an additional 32 percent predicted a smaller boom.

At press time, Suzanne Levine of the Greater West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce said she hadn’t heard too much from her members about their views on the holiday season.

“I think people have been so concentrating on the election and waiting to see who won that they haven’t said anything yet,” she said.

Eric Younan, Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce strategic initiatives director, said the Christmas season is the most important time for many chamber members, since sales tend to go up.

However, he said some members hope that customers will change the way that they shop — attending local brick-and-mortar stores instead of buying online.

“If you’re talking about a department store (worker) that works on commission … you’re taking a commission away form someone who is supporting an economy,” he said.

At Guys N Gals in West Bloomfield, co-owner Julie Feldman expected sales to be great, due to a strategy of selling novelty items and accessories. Among her hottest items, she pointed out neon beanies with bright initials and monogrammed necklaces, which offer a touch of personalization. Small $20 cosmetic bags are also geared to appeal to women and girls on a budget, she said.

“I think it’s really important to bring lots of easy, pick-meup, not so high-end gifts,” Feldman said. “I think people buy a lot of gifts, but they don’t necessarily want to pay a fortune on each gift.”

Learn more about Toyology at www.toyologywb.com or at (248) 562-7524. Guys N Gals may be contacted at www.facebook.com/guys.gals.9 or (248) 851-1260.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.