LAYTON -- With the number of shopping days left until Christmas now in the single digits, the best shopping season in recent years is about to move into high gear.
"What we've seen in the last several years is that crowds get busier toward Christmas," said Barry Smith, general manager of Layton Hills Mall. "The Christmas season seems like as it gets later and later in the season, traffic gets heavier and heavier."
Economic specialists have seen an increase this year not only in sales, but in an overall attitude toward shopping.
"This year is definitely going to be an improvement over last year, and I think we're getting back to numbers now that preceded the economic downturn," said Ben Hart, Layton's economic specialist. "We're seeing more businesses interested in opening up shops, and we're seeing more people in stores."
New retail stores in downtown Ogden have added to the shopping experience in the Top of Utah. Preliminary reports show that new downtown Ogden retailers are doing well, which has city officials feeling the holiday spirit.
"We recognize that re-establishing retail in downtown Ogden is not going to be an overnight change, but we recognize that these companies that have opened up for this Christmas season are going to anchor the retail in downtown," said Richard McConkie, Ogden's director of community and economic development. "We're just very pleased with them coming to downtown Ogden and the support that they are receiving from the community."
McConkie said stores such as Recreation Outlet, Black & Decker Clearance Outlet, Pro Tools Clearance Outlets and G4G Adventure Sports have helped the downtown area.
While exact Christmas shopping numbers will not be completely known for months, city officials are upbeat and cautiously optimistic that overall numbers will be up from recent years. They may not reach the peak numbers of 2007, but at least appear better than last year.
Brent Parkin, senior general manager at Newgate Mall, said there have been a few key factors that have affected the shopping season in a positive way. First, he said, the cold weather came a little sooner and with it brought shoppers out earlier for warm clothing and recreation equipment, such as snowboards and skis.
"The other item is people are just spending more this year," Parkin said. "In the last several years people have been more conservative."
Parkin said Newgate Mall had a record day Saturday in sales and traffic. While he will not know exactly how well the stores did until next month, he talked with managers of several stores that exceeded their highest sales ever.
"One food store said it was their best sales day in the 21 years they've been here," Parkin said.
One concern many shoppers have this time of year is waiting until the final week to do their Christmas shopping. Smith said that last year several stores offered huge deals days before Christmas. However, he said, that may not be the case this year.
"I'm not sure this year if we'll see deals late in the Christmas season," Smith said. "Maybe retailers have already responded to the market earlier this year and are where they need to be, as opposed to prior years when they had to make big markdowns closer to Christmas."
Layton Hills Mall's "Santa's Secret List" of the Top 10 Best-sellers for 2010:
1. Kinect for XBOX 360
2. Iron Man 2 DVD and action figure
3. Classic board games
4. Electronic readers
5. UGG!AE boots
6. My Pillow Pets
8. LEGO Harry Potter Sets
9. Video games
10. Gift cards