Shoppers flock to malls as sunshine sparks sales

Christmas shoppers are revving up in the final countdown to Dec. 25.

“The mall is packed,” Bay Centre manager Darlene Hollstein said Wednesday. “It’s a-booming out there. I think it has a lot to do with the weather,”

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The sun was shining midday as shoppers headed into stores to pick out gifts.

In response to the popularity of online shopping, some Bay Centre stores are offering to ship products from their warehouses to customers’ homes if an item is not in the shop, she said.

Retailers are telling Hollstein that sales have been strong in all categories of merchandise.

Shopping kicked off in earnest the day before Black Friday, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, falling this year on Nov. 29, she said.

“Our traffic was up double-digits over last year,” she said. “I think the difference is this year that the whole world got on board.”

Retailers in Canada embraced Black Friday with enthusiasm this year. “Shopping centres right across Canada were speaking about it, so it was very prevalent,” Hollstein said.

Usually the Friday before Dec. 25 is the busiest pre-Christmas shopping day, she said. “It looks like everyone got a new memo — got to get it done today.”

Deloitte’s 2013 holiday shopping outlook is “modestly upbeat,” forecasting a two to five per cent increase in retail sales

“Canadians’ economic optimism is rising slightly as the economy continues to slowly improve. Most plan to spend as much as they did last year, which in practice, usually means they’ll spend slightly more,” Deloitte said.

Just over 40 per cent of shoppers had either started or planned to do so prior to Black Friday, Deloitte said.

Canadians are expected to spend an average of $1,810 this holiday season, up from $1,610 in 2012, said BMO’s holiday spending outlook, released last month. The largest increase within the spending estimate is on travel.

B.C. residents are expected to spend $520 on gifts, $816 on trips, $237 on entertaining and $87 on other expenditures, BMO said.

Friends Michelle Whybert of Victoria and Les Davis of Duncan wrapped up their shopping at Mayfair Shopping Centre on Wednesday. They each set a budget ahead of time and knew what they wanted to buy, avoiding stress and worry.

“We really enjoy it,” Davis said. He starts by researching possible purchases online and then makes a list of what he wants to buy. Before shopping, he figures out “how much I have to spend and then try to keep within that budget.”

Scott Hannah, president and chief executive officer of the Credit Counselling Society, which operates mainly in Western Canada and has offices in Ontario as well, said Canadians are still not planning enough for seasonal events.

To manage spending this time of year, he suggests making a list of everyone you need to shop for and set a budget. Then calculate overall costs for other spending, such as entertainment.

Take your list with you when shopping to help stay on budget. Track what you have spent, he said.

If you are planning to buy with credit, Hannah said, do not spend more than you can comfortably repay within the first three months of the coming year. Also, if using credit, try to put the spending on one card or a line of credit, because it is easier to keep track.

He recommends not shopping when you are hungry or tired.

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