West Virginians are expecting a very ‘green' Christmas - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

West Virginians are expecting a very ‘green' Christmas

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Apparently, there were few found on the naughty list this year in the Mountain State.

West Virginians expect to celebrate Christmas in a big way, by purchasing gifts at a rate higher than the national average for holiday shoppers.

In a recent survey hosted by The State Journal and shared with its statewide media partners, 42.7 percent of the responders project spending more than $750 on Christmas gifts this year — over the $704 national average in a recent Gallup poll.

In fact, 28.2 percent of The State Journal   responders expect to spend more than $1,000 for Christmas gifts. Numbers that came as no surprise to the experts who know the state's shopping trends.

"We're very family-oriented in West Virginia," reasoned Bridget Lambert, president of the West Virginia Retailers Association. "It means a lot to us. We're tuned in to traditions. 

"The holidays are very important to us, and a lot of folks come home to West Virginia for Christmas." 

Nationally, only 26 percent say they'll spend more than $1,000 on gifts, which is down from 30 percent in November 2012, according to Gallup.

About 31 percent nationally, via Gallup, intend to spend less than $250, including 8 percent who do not intend to purchase Christmas presents.

There were also many State Journal  survey respondents — 27.3 percent, the second-most tallied — who expected to spend less than $300 for Christmas gifts.

A perception of an improving economic outlook, at least in one's own household, goes a long way into figuring a shopping budget.

"Some years have been very, very fruitful, when the economy's been great," observed Lisa McCracken, marketing director of Charleston Town Center mall. "West Virginians, by and large, are healthy shoppers. They're very giving. 

"They love to give for the holiday season. And there have been some lean years when they have given quantity wise — when maybe they didn't spend as much." 

Gallup showed a drop in holiday spending from $866 in 2008 to just $616 in 2009, as the recession was hitting most Americans the hardest. It was the largest dip in a 12-month period in Gallup's data gathered between 1999 and 2013.

"The shopper's confidence in what's ahead determines spending," McCracken added. "They wonder ‘Should I max out? Or should I hold back just a little bit?'"

Fewer shopping days 'til Christmas

The prosperous Christmas predictions for 2013 come in a ‘short season,' too.

"Last year there were five Saturdays (after Thanksgiving) so that was really nice," explained Elisa Payne of Eggplant, a Charleston boutique on Bridge Road. "So this year we had our holiday open house a week earlier because of the way the calendar was situated. 

"We just adjusted." 

And it may explain why so many stores are opening Thanksgiving day.

"At least 50 percent of our stores are opening at 8 p.m.," said Robin Urquhart, marketing director of the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport. 

Even a few extra hours can make a big difference to retailers.

"Between 20 and 40 percent of gross profits for most retailers comes between Black Friday and December 31," Lambert said. "It just depends on the size and type of retailer. Those days are critical to small businesses like candle shops, jewelry stores."

Getting an early bump had its advantage in Charleston. There was a Christmas bonus for the season opening at Eggplant, weather-wise.

"It snowed during the open house weekend, which was wonderful," Payne said. "It helps people get into the spirit. It really does."

Build it; they will come

The Meadowbrook Mall recently celebrated a grand re-opening Nov. 15 -16 following a $5 million renovation project — just in time for the holidays.

"We are anticipating a very good season for our retailers," said Urquhart. "We had a great response for our first weekend (following the remodel). Many of our stores reported they were 50 percent to 100 percent up. The traffic was over-the-top. 

"We have a totally new look, inside and out. It has created a lot of excitement."

Charleston Town Center recently finished a $7.5 million renovation and is about to wrap up another renovation to its Court Street side, adding up to almost $1 million. 

"In addition, we added about a half million dollars in new Christmas décor to celebrate the mall's 30th Christmas in Charleston," McCracken added.

Projections helped by new marketing

Even though the calendar hasn't flipped to December yet, retailer's coffers are projected to be overflowing like a good child's stocking on Christmas morning.

"We are anticipating a good season," said Lambert. "Retailers are putting their promotions out there and consumers are watching."

Shoppers are being reached in new ways more and more, Lambert said.

"According to the statistics we get from the National Retail Federation, 49 percent of consumers are (still) looking at newspaper ads," she stated. "But 33.5 percent are getting deals through a retailer's digital newsletter and text alerts. About 27 percent are seeing deals through a retailer's website and 21.9 percent of consumers are browsing coupon websites for deals.

"Retailers are responding to this. It's very valuable for consumers." 

Don't know what to get that aunt or uncle? Gift cards are becoming more acceptable options than in years gone by, Lambert said.

"We are projecting another rise in gift card purchases," Lambert said. "It's one of the top growth areas in holiday retail. We project another 4 percent growth (in gift cards) this year. It grows every year."