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Published: Tuesday, 12/7/2004

For area Yule themes, inflation, elegance, optimism set the tone

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Snowmen at The Andersons are among the seasonal standbys in inflatable outdoor decoration. Snowmen at The Andersons are among the seasonal standbys in inflatable outdoor decoration.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

When decorating for the holidays, homeowners this season are going for big on the outside and elegant on the inside.

Area retailers report brisk sales of nine-foot-tall inflated Grinches and Scooby Doos that stand sentry in the front yard, as well as animated lighted reindeer and illuminated spiral trees and candy canes.

Inside, Christmas trees pre-strung with as many as 3,000 lights and festooned with handcrafted European glass ornaments stand beside furniture swathed in velvet and silk in deep shades of burgundy, red, green, gold, and silver.

"People are buying anything they can get their hands on," said Helen Liszak, floral manager of the Michaels Arts & Crafts store on Old U.S. 20 in Rossford. "I think people are buying more and decorating more. They're definitely more positive about the economy."

Americans are expected to spend nearly $8 million this year on Christmas and Hanukkah decorations, up 5 percent from the $7.6 million spent last year, according to research by Unity Marketing in Stevens, Pa. The report is based on responses from 1,000 U.S. households that decorate for different holidays.

Two-thirds of those households plan to buy new decorations this year at an average cost of $115, about the same as last year, according to the survey.

Pre-lighted trees such as one catching the eye of Vicki Lombar are popular.
Pre-lighted trees such as one catching the eye of Vicki Lombar are popular.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

That average is higher locally because many buyers are throwing in pre-lighted artificial Christmas trees, said Dave Fritz, sales manager of the Maumee location of Litehouse Pools.

"If someone's coming in to outfit their home, including a tree, they're spending an average of $300 to $400," he said. "If they're coming in for just trinkets and ornaments, they're spending between $25 and $100."

The store sells artificial trees, priced at $79 to $800.

Trees strung with 500 to 3,000 lights are big hits, he said.

An upbeat attitude accompanies that spending, Mr. Fritz added. "Everybody seems to be in a good mood this year," he said.

But, a lot of them are choosing to decorate with a decidedly unhappy icon: the Grinch.

Seasonal manager Mike Peitz said The Andersons store at Talmadge Road and Monroe Street in west Toledo has sold out of the inflatable Grinch but has Scooby Doo, Winnie-the-Pooh and the old standbys, Santa Claus and snowmen.

The inflatable decorations, which Unity Marketing said are the hot new outdoor items this holiday season, range in size from six to nine feet and carry an average price of $50.

Buying decisions seem to be based on a case of one-upmanship, Mr. Peitz said: "My neighbor's got this many, so I need this many more than my neighbor."

Kmart spokesman Caryn Klebba said the chain also has sold many of the large inflatable figures, which are kept filled by a small motor.

"I think it's because they are a relatively easy way to decorate for the holidays," she said.

As for the inside of the home, buyers seem to be intent on using particular colors or themes, such as snowflakes or a winter wonderland, she said.

Elegance is the word that Target store spokesman Aimee Sands uses to describe what shoppers are scooping up.

"They're buying richly beaded table runners of velvet or silk and monogrammed ornaments that are silver with little rhinestone details," she said.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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