Downtown will switch on holiday season earlier this year
The holiday season will get an early start this year with the annual Wells Fargo Christmas Tree Lighting moved up a week.
The lighting ceremony traditionally has taken place on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which signals the official start of the holiday shopping season. This year, the switch for the tree lights will be flipped Nov. 19, six days before Thanksgiving.
The date change came at the request of merchants, according to Kathy Dirks, marketing director for the Downtown Development Authority.
“I think people really are carefully watching what they spend, so the earlier you can get out in front of people, the better off (downtown merchants) are,” Dirks said.
Dirks said as far as she knows, this will be the first year the tree lighting has occurred before Thanksgiving.
Extended shopping hours on Thursdays and Sundays also will begin early this year. Downtown will host free carriage rides and holiday music, and Santa will stroll Main Street from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and from noon to 2 p.m. on Sundays beginning Nov. 18 and ending Dec. 23.
Seventy-eight percent of people plan to shop for the holidays before December, according to the National Retail Federation. More than 60 percent of shoppers surveyed said the economy would affect their shopping, with 81.5 percent saying they would spend less, 54.1 percent looking harder for sales, 40.6 percent using coupons more often and 30.9 percent planning to compare prices online.
The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce hopes its Blue Band campaign works with this trend and encourages people to shop locally. More than 100 Grand Valley businesses participate in the year-round program, which offers discounts to people shopping at local stores. People can get free blue wrist bands promoting the program at the Parade of Lights Dec. 4 and at Mesa Mall.
Chamber Executive Director Diane Schwenke said retailers nationwide expect sales to increase slightly this holiday season compared to last year, but she said consumers are still nervous about spending money.
“It’s anybody’s guess,” Schwenke said.
Dirks said retailers she has spoken with are optimistic about this year, as long as the snow and cold don’t creep in too early.
“Weather played a big part in holiday shopping last year,” she said.