I decided to start my Christmas shopping early this year as I ventured out this weekend to knock some people off my list. As Missoula’s Southgate Mall was one of the places I risked my sanity to shop in, I noticed some trends inside that shopping center that also corresponded almost exactly to things I observed while zipping through the Spokane malls during Thanksgiving weekend. For today’s blog post I want to highlight the main five trends I have identified inside malls during the 2013 holiday season.
Cell Phone Cases Galore: With the proliferation of smart phones comes the proliferation of smart phone cases. The malls I have visited have had at the very least two cell phone case kiosks in high walking traffic areas. People want to protect their phones while also adding a little personality as well. Many of these kiosks sell cases with every design, color, sports team, movie, cartoon character, celebrity, etc. that you could want. However, I feel they are a complete rip off. While shopping for someone on my list I spotted a potential cell phone case that would make a good gift. I asked the person behind the kiosk if I could hold it before I made a decision. He grudgingly allowed me to and the second I placed it in my hands I said “No thanks”.
The dingy plastic cover would never protect any phone and the design was not even that cool. Add in the ridiculous price and I would tell most people to not consider purchasing cases from cell phone kiosks in the mall. Seriously, check out www.case-mate.com. There you can personally design your own case while getting a product that will save your phone when you do drop it (just ask me from experience).
Gift Cards: While gift cards have been a mainstay in every holiday shopper’s diet for several years now, I feel it has reached a new peak this year. Not only does every store offer gift cards in 10 different designs with 10 different card holders to choose from, but now there is an added incentive to purchase them in high dollar amounts. Every place (no exaggeration) that I have purchased a gift card from has offered me a deal where if I purchase a certain dollar amount I will receive additional funds for free. The most common example is the $100 gift card purchase. If you go to a clothing retailer or restaurant and purchase $100 in gift cards (either on one whole card or say five cards at $20 each), you will get an additional $20 free to either add on to one of the cards or to just slap it on to a brand new card.
Obviously you get no complaining from me on this one. What is not to like about going to a popular store and buying a $20 gift card for five of your favorite friends and then getting an extra $20 card for free? You can now give a gift to your sixth favorite friend or if you don’t have that many friends you can keep it for yourself (or maybe give it to charity).
Authentic Santas: Something that I have noticed this holiday season is the very visible step up in mall Santas. Each one I have seen has actually looked like Kris Kringle himself. I am talking real full grown white beards, jolly eyes, and white hair flowing from under the back of the hat. Even the suit has looked pristine, with a couple opting to not even go with the traditional Christmas Eve red ensemble but rather a type of outfit that Santa might wear while making toys at the North Pole. Every Santa I have seen could pass for the one from the most recent version of “Miracle on 34th Street.”
I applaud malls for going the extra mile to hire legit looking Santas. Over the years I have seen some cheesy looking Santas with awful looking fake beards and sloppy fitting suits. Obviously the people who take the time and sacrifice to make their actual physical appearance simulate that of the real Santa are going to do the best job and give children the best experience .
Samples: This year when I have strolled into malls I have had to ask myself if I was actually in a Costco. Stores and kiosks are giving away samples like never before. Employees with wide smiles holding trays are encouraging shoppers to try their product. **Well, even though I have no intention of buying your meat tray you don’t need to twist my arm to at least taste it for free**. I have watched in semi amazement as the employees handing out samples will rush from their storefront across to the other side to offer customers walking in the opposite direction a bite of their frozen yogurt or a small trial size of their scent. I have never seen the Costco sample ladies do that before!
Surprisingly Good Deals: Black Friday is long gone but that hasn’t meant that the good deals are too. I was pleasantly surprised with the numerous bargains I encountered while shopping over the past couple days. Sure, I did see my fair share of jacked up scams but I also saw lots of 40% off sales, $10 long sleeve shirts, and buy one-get one free offers. Anyone who took time and care to investigate what was out there could easily find affordable gift ideas. I also encountered many helpful and cheerful employees who were eager to answer my questions and also point me in the direction of where I could find the biggest savings. While I don’t relish holiday shopping by any means, this weekend it wasn’t too painful.
You got roughly nine days of shopping left! Over these never several days when you are out at your local mall don’t be surprised when you notice these particular trends. In fact, I would love it more than anything if you snapped a photo of any mall Santa you happen to stumble across and send it to me. That might be worth a candy cane and a Christmas card from yours truly. Have a great week everyone! Don’t Blink.