With a little more than two weeks to go before Christmas, St. Louis Park retailers are working to keep shelves stocked as signs point to shoppers spending more this year.
Both national and local studies suggest that shoppers are ready to spend more, and recent profits at high-end retail chains add further proof that this season should be stronger than last year — and Park stores are bracing for the business.
At a St. Louis Park , store manager Taylor Pack said they are struggling to keep Squinkies — the latest craze in kid's toys — on the shelves. In addition to the squishy, cartoon pencil toppers, the store has been busy selling holiday decor, Legos and TVs.
"Overall, compared to last year, it seems a lot busier," Pack said. "People are also spending more."
Pack said the store's recent expansion of its fresh grocery section has also increased traffic.
While statistics were not available for the two St. Louis Park Target stores, the Minnesota-based chain's net November sales were up 5.7 percent from last year.
Target's December sales reports will be available on Jan. 6, and Pack anticipates a busy upcoming two weeks in the toys and electronics departments, meaning December's sales may be up, too.
Nationwide, holiday sales are expected to grow 2.3 percent this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Luxury retailers are predicted to gain a 6 to 8 percent increase.
Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom's and Saks Fifth Avenue have posted increasing profits in recent weeks, and locally, Mall of America sales are up 9 percent so far this year.
A recent survey by the University of St. Thomas found that Twin Cities' households plan to spend more this year than last, but 2010 will not be a complete return to lush holiday spending.
According to the survey, the average Twin Cities household plans to spend $680 this year, or 6.8 percent more than in 2009 — the most frugal year for the survey since its 2002 inception.
Back in 2004, Twin Cities shoppers planned to spend $796.
Still, the trend is up, and smaller retailers are planning to rake in some of the increased spending this year, too.
Happi Olson, sales and marketing director of Twin Cities-based Creative Kidstuff, said the eight-store chain is on an upward trend. Sales across the board are expected to increase, even at the one-year-old location.
"I'm not sure the numbers will come in as strong [as pre-recession]," Olson said. "But we are seeing things improve and our company is actually growing."
The St. Louis Park Creative Kidstuff opened in November of last year and has continued to gain momentum into this holiday season, Olson said.
"It takes around three years for a new store to really develop. This store is on track, even a little ahead I would say," she added.
Olson said in addition to recession-era spending, Creative Kidstuff is up against more and more boutiques who are adding children's selections.
To stay competitive the store has continued to develop their specialty niche toy selections — including games and science-centric toys.
Despite industry estimates, with the state's unemployment rate at nearly 7 percent and housing prices still waffling, its difficult to predict how much shoppers will spend this season.
At least one thing, Olson said, is for sure.
"The demeanor of our customers has really changed. They are having more fun shopping," she said. "They are not as scared anymore. For many of them, what's happened has happened."