Shopping madness

Mall parking lots were packed in Red Deer this weekend as some shoppers started their Christmas shopping and others put the finishing touches on their holiday buying. In downtown Red Deer, store owners noticed an increase in traffic compared to the past couple of weeks of bitterly cold weather.

Shoppers hurry through Bower Shopping Place on Saturday

Mall parking lots were packed in Red Deer this weekend as some shoppers started their Christmas shopping and others put the finishing touches on their holiday buying.

In downtown Red Deer, store owners noticed an increase in traffic compared to the past couple of weeks of bitterly cold weather.

Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer, owner of Comforts the Sole at 4812 50 Ave. in downtown Red Deer, said the weather certainly had an effect on people coming downtown.

She said although people aren’t shopping the way they would have a few years ago, things have improved this year compared to last year. “It’s much better. People have more confidence in the economy now. I think it’s picking up,” she said.

At Wei’s Western Wear at 5115 50 Ave., owner Chung Mah said it was a lot slower as temperatures dropped well into subzero.

“It was the second coldest place on earth. I’m not sure that’s a distinction we want to have,” Mah said. “We find when it is really bitterly cold there is not a lot of traffic.”

However, the cold weather also brought some people in because the store sells a lot of cold weather gear.

Collin Orthner, manager at McBain Camera at 5129 48 St., said he expects a rush of people this week, with Christmas less than a week away.

Overall Canadians are expected to spend more at Christmas time this year compared to last year, with them expected to spend $891 this year on average compared to $884 last year, according to a Scotiabank survey. Alberta consumers are expected to spend the most this holiday season at $1,087.

The top gift people plan to give this holiday season is gift cards, with 53 per cent of people handing those out as presents.

Jason Heward, of Rocky Mountain House, and his son Austin, 13, were pushing a cart full of presents around Parkland Mall in Red Deer on Saturday. Jason said their shopping was going great.

“It’s all getting done today and tomorrow,” he said.

“It’s congested but everybody is being pretty courteous.”

Austin said he was acting as his dad’s “memory”, helping him remember what gifts to pick up. He is hoping there might be a mini laptop under the tree for him this Christmas.

Jason said he is just wants peace and harmony this Christmas. “That’s good enough for me, for everyone to be happy,” he said.

Many Canadians are wishing for more a more lucrative item this Christmas, with 44 per cent saying they want gift cards.

Although things may be picking up this year not everyone is benefiting from it.

Rochelle Hughes, owner of Fig Rocks in Parkland Mall, said it’s terrible this year.

“It’s horrible compared to last year. It’s bad,” she said. She moved her store from downtown Red Deer to Parkland Mall 10 months ago, but now she is looking at making it a home business because the overhead costs are just too much. She doesn’t think it’s the weather, but the economy that has affected sales.

“People just don’t have the money,” she said. “I think it’s the economy. The lack of work. A lot of people are laid off. The oilpatch is bad so you know it’s just a combination of situations.”

Scott Murray, owner of Murdawg in the Bower Place Shopping Centre, said it’s been slow the past week to 10 days as a result of the blizzard and the cold weather. He said things picked up on Thursday and Friday and he is hoping this week will be busy. He said at the moment it isn’t close to last year’s sales.

The store specializes in rock wear and novelty T-shirts. The popular item at the moment is the “I’m right” T-shirt, a replica of the T-shirt on the Scotiabank ad, where the husband rips off his shirt to show a T-shirt that reads “I’m right.”

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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