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November 26, 2012

Southside Mall sees brisk holiday shopping traffic

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — ONEONTA — Holiday shopping traffic was busy at Southside Mall during the Thanksgiving weekend, according to staff at four stores Sunday.

But they said they are waiting for the pace to pick up during the remaining weeks before Christmas.

“Generally Black Friday is crazy — everybody is out,’’ Rachel Smith, manager in training at Olympia Sports said. However, this year’s Black Friday was slower than expected, she said, and consumers arrived in “spurts.’’

Then Saturday and Sunday were busier with shoppers, though the advertised sales were as good as Black Friday sales, Smith said.

“The mall was really full, and there were people constantly coming in,’’ Smith said. ``We went through a lot of gift boxes. … It should be a good Christmas.’’

Staff at several national retailers, such as Kay Jewelers, referred questions to corporate offices or to managers who wouldn’t be at work until today.

Thanksgiving shopping took away from Black Friday’s start to the holiday season, as the latest survey found retail sales in stores fell slightly from last year, the Associated Press reported.

ShopperTrak reported Saturday that consumers spent $11.2 billion at stores across the country, down 1.8 percent from last year’s total, the AP said, and today, Cyber Monday is expected to be the biggest online shopping day for the third year in a row.

Some stores at Southside Mall were open overnight starting at midnight Thursday, with hopes of catching shoppers from Walmart, which had sales Thursday night, Victoria Vajo, manager at Magnolia’s Fudge and Gift Shoppe, said Sunday. Some shoppers were at the mall with children who were awake and crying at 3 a.m., she said, which she described as “odd.’’

She and two other employees worked overnight at the store near clothing and home goods retailer TJ Maxx. Though the fudge shop store offered deep discounts on some gift items, she said, there wasn’t enough consumer traffic.

“It wasn’t worth the light bill,’’ Vajo said. Next year, the store will pay the fine imposed by the mall to be closed overnight, she said, and families with toddlers are better off staying at home and letting their children sleep.

Magnolia’s Fudge opened about 3½ months ago, Vajo said, and she is waiting to see the “wow’’ of Christmas holiday shopping begin.

Black Tree Books, at the opposite end of Southside Mall, also opened about three months ago, said Marqui Vega, who owns the kiosk-style business with his wife, Katrina. He said there was an explosion of shoppers after midnight Thursday, but they generally were more interested in the big-box retailers.

Overall, however, the bookseller did its third best week in sales during Thanksgiving week, Vega said, and shoppers are glad to see books for sale at the mall.

“We’re off to a good start,’’ he said. ``We’re being very optimistic.’’

The National Retail Federation estimates that overall retail sales in November and December will be up 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion, an AP report said.

At Southside Mall, Jordon Conroy and Samantha Clark, sales associates at The Shoe Dept. near Black Tree Books, said sales attracted customers throughout the weekend.

“It was a little busier than the average weekend,’’ Conroy said. Business is expected to pick up with Christmas shopping, they said, and with the need for boots for winter.

The season’s first sticking snow covered the area Sunday morning.