Metro-East News

As holiday shopping season arrives, strong sales predicted, new stores available

Christkindlmarkt prepares to open in Downtown Belleville

The only month-long holiday market in the St. Louis region, the Christkindlmarkt, will open at 10 a.m. Friday and will operate daily until Dec. 23. The German market is expected to draw a record crowd to downtown Belleville.
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The only month-long holiday market in the St. Louis region, the Christkindlmarkt, will open at 10 a.m. Friday and will operate daily until Dec. 23. The German market is expected to draw a record crowd to downtown Belleville.

A record number of consumers will buy holiday gifts online using a mobile device this year, analysts say, but that doesn’t mean you won’t run into crowds while shopping in the metro-east.

About 164 million consumers plan to go shopping on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday through Cyber Monday, according to the annual survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

That’s why brick-and-mortar retailers in the metro-east, including St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights and Belleville’s outdoor shopping experience, the Christkindlmarkt, expect to see a big turnout this year, too.

“All indications point to a very strong holiday shopping season,” said Christine Poehling, a spokesperson for St. Clair Square. “Retail sales across the country have steadily climbed throughout 2018 and that leads us to believe that holiday sales will also be strong.”

Hiring this holiday season is up over last year, which is another indicator of optimism among retailers and a strong season ahead, Poehling said.

New stores are open at St. Clair Square

This year, holiday shoppers will notice renovations at St. Clair Square along with seasonal pop-up stores such as Hickory Farms and Go! Calendars.

Victoria Secret’s new PINK store has reopened and L Brands, the parent company for Victoria’s Secret and PINK, recently opened La Senza, a lingerie store, on the upper level. Build-A-Bear has downsized and moved to a kiosk on the lower level..

Other renovations will be completed in 2019. But for now, the mall is focused on getting through Black Friday and the rest of the holiday shopping season with healthy sales.

A holiday shopping survival guide published by St. Clair Square’s parent company offered advice to Black Friday shoppers:

“Everyone is shopping on Black Friday, so be realistic, and expect some lines and some waiting,” mall blogger Alicia Easley wrote. “It’s inevitable. Just keep yourself in the holiday spirit!”

Beth Wamble, store manager at Ben's in downtown Belleville, talks about preparing for the Christmas season.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Downtown Belleville

The largest outdoor holiday market in the St. Louis region and Southern Illinois, the Christkindlmarkt, will open at 9 a.m. Friday and will operate daily until Dec. 23. For the fifth year in the row, the German market is expected to draw a record crowd to downtown Belleville.

New downtown merchants like Dave Dyer, owner of Cosmic Comic Books, Collectibles and Games could benefit from the extra traffic. Located at 132 West Main Street, Dyer of one of several new merchants downtown since last holiday season.

“Downtown stores we feel have really embraced the Christkindlmarkt and see it as a very positive addition to holidays in Belleville,” Market Director Carole Piontkowsky said.

Every year, 12 volunteers operate the market along with Piontkowsky. The market runs during a busy time of time, but more holiday helpers are needed as the event continues to grow, Piontkowsky said.

This year it will feature outdoor movies every Friday and Saturday, starting at dusk, to begin on Nov. 30. The market will also have a gingerbread cookie decorating class on Dec. 22 and other events like wine pairings and tastings are also on the agenda.

“The Christkindlmarkt is not just about finding those one of a kind, or unusual gifts that you will not find at the mall,” Piontkowsky said. “But is really about enjoying the season with family and friends, taking time out of the hustle and bustle of the season, and simply enjoying the decorations, food, drink, entertainment, trolley rides and companionship.”

Shop small will make a big impact again this year

About 30 minutes outside of Belleville, merchants in Waterloo are preparing for a busy holiday season. The city’s downtown corridor has experienced a renaissance with new businesses and two microbreweries moving in.

“We could potentially have a great year,” said Roberta Rohwedder, executive director for Waterloo’s chamber of commerce. “Shopping local doesn’t just help you, it’s helping everyone around you.”

Nearly a decade ago, Small Business Saturday, a concept supported by American Express, became a buzz word for entrepreneurs across the country. About 108 million shoppers spent $12.9 billion at independently owned businesses in 2017. American Express tracks the numbers and conducts a survey every year.

“Shopping small has a significant and positive effect on local communities, and we hope Small Business Saturday will help to amplify that effect during the crucial holiday shopping season. When we spend local, small businesses thrive, “ Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer at American Express said in a statement released Nov. 13. “And when small businesses thrive, we all thrive.”

Headed to a big box store? Here’s what you need to know.

The absence of Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us in Fairview Heights will be evident this year, but plenty of big box stores that survived the retail apocalypse will be open on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

Most Walmart will be open all day with Black Friday deals starting at 6 p.m, Sears stores will open at 6 p.m Thanksgiving Day, and Target and Best Buy will be open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.

In the metro-east, Aldi, Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, Burlington, Hobby Lobby, Dillard’s, Home Depot, Petco, Pier 1 Imports, Sam’s Club and TJ Maxx are among the retailers that will be closed Thanksgiving Day.

Cara Anthony covers restaurants and retail for the Belleville News-Democrat, where she works to answer readers’ questions about restaurant openings, business closures and the best new dishes in the metro-east. She attended Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville and grew up in East St. Louis.
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