Metro Detroit retailers ramp up for Super Saturday shopping

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Stacie Catka of Trenton tries on a winter hat Moosejaw in downtown Detroit during a Christmas-shopping expedition with her girlfriends on Wednesday.

Detroit — It's not yet Christmas Eve on Woodward Avenue, but retailers say they are bustling.

"We've been really busy," said Michaela Jajko, assistant manager for Moosejaw outdoor outfitter on Woodward. "Since Black Friday and around Thanksgiving time, a lot more people are coming down."

Metro Detroit malls and stores are preparing for last-minute crowds on Saturday, which is expected to be the largest shopping day of the year. The late push could boost U.S. retail sales for the holiday season 5.8 percent from 2017 and surpass $1 trillion for the first time, according to data firm eMarketer.

With most online retailers having passed their last day for standard shipping by Christmas, malls and shopping centers are expected to see the final holiday rush.

"Many shoppers delay gift shopping, and it can be stressful," said Puneet Manchanda, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan. "The merchants recognize this. They've worked really hard to send out marketing and email reminders. They have countdowns, but the deals and sales available peak (by Saturday). Merchants know they will have it in their control. There will be fewer deals on faster-moving, more popular items."

According to a survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers, 48 percent of U.S. adults plan to shop for holiday gifts on Saturday, Sunday or Christmas Eve. On average, shoppers still plan to spend about $173 this weekend.

Jake Fleming of Detroit, second from left, buys gift cards for his family gift exchange as Moosejaw assistant manager Michaela Jajko rings up his purchase Wednesday in downtown Detroit.

Several Metro Detroit malls are extending their hours and making the final push to top off the season.

Nathan Forbes, managing partner of the Forbes Co. LLC that owns the Somerset Collection in Troy, said the retail forecasts are good news for brick-and-mortar stores, where eMarketer predicts more than 87 percent of purchases will be made.

"It shows consumer confidence remains high," Forbes said. "I think they feel good about their job status and the economy."

He said it is still too early to tell if the 2018 holiday is record-breaking for Somerset, but Forbes said the parking lot is filling up earlier in the day than in years past and the mall has seen a large increase in foot traffic.

In Michigan, retail sales are shaping up for one of the best holiday seasons Michigan has seen. November sales tax receipts totaled $664 million, up 4 percent year-over-year, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.

At Auburn Hills' Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, electronics, apparel, handbags and engraved items from Things Remembered continue to be hot buys, according to Melissa Morang, marketing and sponsorship director.

"We see a number of people from all over the state of Michigan, from Ohio and our friends from Canada," Morang said. "It's not only shopping, but families and relatives are making a day of it to go to Legoland or see a movie."

Holiday shopping experiences are what draws customers to the outdoor Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township, said Christina Bachmann, the mall's marketing director.

She noted locally owned Giuseppe's International Oils & Vinegars and the Artisan Market, a store featuring pieces from Metro Detroit artists, have garnered consumer attention. Dog photos with Santa Claus were especially popular earlier in the month.

"At that point in time, more people came for dog photos than for kids' photos," Bachmann said. "We're seeing a lot of folks coming out specifically for mom-and-pop purchases. People want to be able to immerse themselves in an overall holiday experience."

Twelve Oaks Mall retailers should be happy if sales continue to trend as they have, said Daniel Jones, the shopping center's general manager.

The mall, he said, has benefited from fair weather and five weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas, one more than last year. A new The North Face store and expanded H&M and Lululemon Athletica locations have attracted customers.

"It'll definitely be crowded (this weekend)," Jones said. "We expect the really good crowds to begin on Friday and continue throughout the rest of the weekend."

The National Retail Federation estimates retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants in November and December will increase up to 4.8 percent over 2017 to $720.9 billion. That marks a five-year annual increase of 3.9 percent, though the estimate is down from 2017's 5.3 percent holiday sales growth, the largest since the 5.2 percent year-over-year gain seen in 2010 after the end of the Great Recession.

More than 165 million people in the United States shopped in stores or online over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, slightly beating the retail federation's expectations.

The average shopper spent $313.29 that weekend, down from $335.47 in 2017. With Thanksgiving falling a week earlier this year, however, shoppers had an extra weekend to spend.

"I would say that this is better than the expectation that 2017 was the high point," said marketing professor Manchanda. "It seems shoppers are still in spending mode and haven't pulled back."

Avabelle Boutique owner/buyer Randee Garrett, left, of Westland, helps customer Connie Cessante, of Plymouth, as she looks through Avabelle's clothing at 1441 Woodward Collective. Garrett is one of 13 local business owners at the pop-up space that operates from May through December 27th.

The 1441 Woodward Collective in downtown Detroit is ready for the shoppers. The temporary store that runs through Dec. 27 features 13 local vendors offering everything from $5 Detroit-themed stickers to $150 men's blazers.

It has seen traffic ramp up over the past few weeks since opening around Thanksgiving, said Tee Capel, the store's creative director and curator.

"You're getting a product that you probably couldn't get anywhere else," Capel said. "It's supporting someone's passion. They're creating something for people to love."

Moosejaw has held several events over the holiday season to attract shoppers, even hiring a bartender to make drinks, said assistant store manager Jajko.

Openings for clothing company Madewell, fragrance brand Le Labo and clothing store Good Neighbor across the street in Detroit-based real estate firm Bedrock's Shinola Hotel development have attracted a wave of customers. Ice skating, roller skating and the Cadillac Square Market have brought others to the neighborhood.

"Especially on the weekends," Jajko said, "people are coming for the really good restaurants and to shop and check out some of the new places coming out."