Shopping forecast

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:55 AM

Mary Janusz, owner of The Calico Cat in downtown Grand Haven, predicted a healthy holiday retail season back in October. Her customers haven't disappointed her.

“Our sales have been wonderful,” Janusz said.

With ornaments, scarves, mittens and hats flying off the shelves, Janusz estimates sales are up 22 percent over the same period last year.

“We had a record weekend for our open house (the first weekend in December)," she said. "My November was up considerably, too.”

Janusz's projection follows national trends that indicate consumer confidence is merging into merry. Americans plan to spend about as much on gifts this year as they did before the recession, according to a recent study by the American Research Group.

The average shopper is expected to spend $854 on presents — a 32 percent jump from last year. That's just a few dollars shy of the $859 average in 2007 before the recession rolled in.

There's more good news on the national front, according to Deloitte's annual holiday survey. Last year, 50 percent of people questioned said they thought the country was still in a recession. This holiday season, that number has taken a serious chimney slide to 37 percent.

The Deloitte survey also found that 63 percent of shoppers plan to spend more on gifts than they did last year.

Amanda Molenkamp, a clerk at Mackinaw Kite Co., said the downtown Grand Haven store's sales are also flying high.

“Small Business Saturday helped us a lot,” she said, referring to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. “We did even better that day than Black Friday.”

Glancing around the store on Tuesday last week, Molenkamp said they're busier than normal.

“It's definitely more up than down,” she said.

Games like Spot It and Tenzi are this season's hot sellers, according to Molenkamp.

“Our science section is also doing really well,” she said. “It's been fun.”

Janessa Engelhard hit downtown streets in search of gifts last week. The Grand Haven woman said she's shopping at about the same pace as last year, rounding out her list with toys and "fun" clothing.

Engelhard said she plans to purchase about half of her gifts from local stores.

“It's a lot easier to shop local than to fight the crowds at the mall,” she said.

Sharon Reyers, owner of R House Gift Shop in Spring Lake, said sales are exceeding expectations. Her largest volume day in 23 years was on Dec. 1, she said.

“We had about the same number of customers, but sales were really strong,” Reyers said. “... Mondays have even been strong. Normally, that's your slower day.”

If tradition holds, Reyers said she may get even more customers in the next two weeks.

“The thing is, there are some people who aren't even thinking about Christmas yet,” she said. “I just hope this continues.”

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