Businesses prep for shopping rush

Local business owners are hopeful that in addition to favorite carols, they’ll also hear the ca-ching of cash registers this holiday shopping season, which comes as the credit market tightens and consumer confidence is hitting historic lows nationwide.

Business at Head Over Heels! on Snoqualmie Ridge has picked up in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, said owner Ali Wieseler. While her inventory is normally heavy on bigger-ticket items like shoes, she has upped her stock in accessories and other gifts in the $20 to $50 range to appeal to customers who are watching their wallets.

“I’m more sensitive to the price point,” she said. “Being under $50 for a gift or an accessory is pretty important.”

Wiesler has faith that her neighbors will shop close to home.

“Our community wants to support the local businesses. There’s a sensitivity and an awareness to that,” she said.

Following a slow October, business at Zeebi’s toy store on the Ridge has spiked this month, said manager Nels Estlund.

“We’ve seen a 100 percent increase in the last couple of weeks,” he said.

He attributed the increase in foot traffic to mild November weather, as well as festive decorations around the Ridge.

The store hasn’t changed its purchasing strategies based on economic conditions, he said.

“We’re not worried,” Estlund said. “We’re gearing up for Christmastime, and getting boxes in every day.”

Their optimism is well founded, said Lesli Williams, owner of Bliss Spa on the Ridge and president of Snoqualmie Valley Women in Business, a networking organization.

“People are being careful and methodical about how they’re spending their money, but they’re not cutting back drastically,” she said. “I haven’t heard anyone say, ‘We’re not doing anything for Christmas.’”

Business at the spa has been “consistently slow, but not terrible,” she said.

Local consumers “are being more thoughtful, and looking at the value they’re getting for their dollar.”

Consignment has picked up in popularity.

“A lot of moms are looking at garage sale items, and second-hand options for toys,” Williams said.

Many retailers are responding by offering two-for-one specials and other deals.

Williams is planning a “girls’ night out” event where women can get treatments to prepare for holiday parties and relieve stress, shop, enter to win prizes, and leave with goodie bags.

“We’re trying unique ways to incentivize people,” she said.

The Factory Stores at North Bend also has a special event planned: Its second annual “Midnight Madness” sale just after Thanksgiving, when many stores in the outlet mall will offer across-the-board discounts. At the Nike Factory Store, for example, shoppers get 20 percent off their entire purchase from midnight to noon on Friday, Nov. 28.

Ed Cook, who manages the center, said the event got a good response last year.

“It was an opportunity for women to do a girls’ night out. It was mothers and daughters, and girlfriends out together,” he said. “We’re hoping to get that strong reception again. Everybody’s optimistic.”

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