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Published: Saturday, 11/25/2000

Thousands swarm area retailers

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Margie Kayser of Toledo joins dozens in line at the Old Navy store that opened recently in Springfield Township. Margie Kayser of Toledo joins dozens in line at the Old Navy store that opened recently in Springfield Township.
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Three steps into the Old Navy store in Springfield Township, Bob Sharp glanced at what he could see of about 250 people in line at midmorning yesterday and said, “I think I'm gonna wait outside.”

The more efficient way to give Christmas gifts, the retired bakery manager said, would be to write each of his loved ones a check. But such decisions, said Mr. Sharp, 67, are seldom left up to husbands. He trailed his family to the stores, adding the expenditures in his head.

“We're spending money at a rate of about $150 an hour,” he said.

Despite the huge crowds and big purchases, the day after Thanksgiving often ranks eighth during the year for sales nationally, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. The most money is typically spent the Saturday before Christmas.

Toledoans Allyson Corbett and her mom, Mary Corbett, seated, await a dressing room at Franklin Park Mall. Toledoans Allyson Corbett and her mom, Mary Corbett, seated, await a dressing room at Franklin Park Mall.
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At Franklin Park Mall, however, manager Scott Vallee said the day after Thanksgiving is the third or fourth busiest sales day and draws the second or third largest crowds of the year.

He predicted that 30,000 to 40,000 shoppers would go to the Toledo mall yesterday, compared with 5,000 on most weekdays and 8,000 to 9,000 on the average weekend throughout the year.

Because schools are closed and young women are a big percentage of the shoppers, the day is huge for stores selling young women's clothing. Clothing is the most popular Christmas gift, according to American Express holiday shopping surveys. Young women buy for themselves and others the day after Thanksgiving.

Sixty per cent of people in the American Express survey said they will give at least one clothing gift this year.

The hottest clothing gifts this year are velvet, cashmere, suede, and chenille; embroidered and beaded items; animal prints, and leather, according to the shopping centers council. Sweater sets, scarves, and wraps for women and Regis tonal dress shirts and ties for men are expected to be in demand as well.

At Old Navy, new to Lucas County this fall, some lines were 65 people long, even though clerks said the store did not have any deeper discounts and had not advertised more than usual.

In Franklin Park Mall, stores such as Lerner New York, American Eagle, and Gap - all of which devote much or all of their space to young women's wear - were the most crowded about 1 p.m. Mr. Vallee predicted that likely would be the peak hour of the day.

Men's stores are never as busy as women's stores, said Christie Thein, a former employee at a young women's store who now displays merchandise at Structure, a young men's store.

Despite such trends, Structure store manager P.J. Piojda had a goal to make his store the talk of the mall food court yesterday. He presented wrapped gifts - such as Structure watches and Bath & Body Works products - every hour to the first person in line to sing a Christmas carol after he announced the giveaway.

Three-year-old Kennedy Jo Lambert, who was visiting her Williams County grandparents, didn't need encouragement while her family shopped. She belted out “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” repeatedly in Plato's Closet Teen Shop in Spring Meadows shopping center.

The resale shop, though not as crowded as comparable stores selling new clothing, was busier than usual.

At Franklin Park Mall, the phone lines and parking lot were jammed by midafternoon. Drivers stalked people walking toward cars as they watched for one of the mall's 5,763 parking spaces to open up.

About 1,400 employees of the mall and its stores and kiosks were expected to be on duty at some point of the day, with 1,000 of them there at the busiest late morning and early afternoon hours, Mr. Vallee said.

Kim Lewis, manager at Kohl's Department Store in Springfield Township, set her alarm for 3:30 a.m. yesterday and was at the store by 4:50 a.m. for its opening at 6 a.m. One of the few acceptable excuses allowing Kohl's employees to have Thanksgiving weekend off was for college students who could not stay in their dorm over the holiday and were not from the area.

Area stores with the highest-end clothing were not nearly as crowded as less costly stores.

“They are in search of bargains today,” Ms. Lewis said.

The American Express survey backs her. Discounts are what motivates about half the shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving, the survey found.

No matter which day shoppers are in the stores, the Christmas season is huge for many clothing stores that often tally a quarter of their annual sales in the last two months of the year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

It found last year that many clothing stores make 10 per cent of their sales in November and about 15 per cent in December.



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