Shopping season begins at Westfield Old Orchard
Tricia Paterakos (from left), 15, Laura McCormick, 15, Aubrey Woolford, 16, and Issie Sagraves, 15, all of Wilmette, take a break from shopping and smell the new candles they bought Friday at Westfield Old Orchard. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
SEASONAL EVENTS AT OLD ORCHARD
Westfield Old Orchard will sponsor many holiday events and attractions including the following highlights:
• Tree Lighting Ceremony: 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1.
A tree lighting ceremony near Macy’s and the koi pond. The event will include an official tree lighting with NBC’s Lee Ann Trotter guest hosting and a special appearance by Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen. Also in attendance will be Santa and his elves. Other attractions include Niles North High School Choir and more.
• Menorah Lighting Ceremony: 5:45 p.m. Dec. 8.
The start of Hanukkah will be celebrated with a traditional lighting of an 8-foot menorah. The event is in collaboration with Bethel Hillel Congregation Bnai Emanuh and will include a children’s choir, hot beverages and sweet treats.
• Breakfast With Santa.
On select dates, families will have an opportunity to visit Santa at Maggiano’s Little Italy, Macy’s and Nordstrom.
• Festival of Trees.
The Festival of Trees is displayed near Macy’s and the koi pond on the north end of the center. Ten uniquely decorated trees representing different charities will be on display through Dec. 24. The charity represented by the tree with the most votes will receive a $1,500 donation from Westfield Old Orchard.
For a full schedule, access www.westfield.com/oldorchard.
Updated: December 30, 2012 6:30AM
Opening an hour or two early for holiday shopping on Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — is sooo 2005.
By today’s standards, major stores that open that late are as obsolete as the first Kindle or iPad that was in vogue during a previous season.
Times have changed, figuratively and literally.
Westfield Old Orchard, the area’s largest regional shopping center, showed some restraint by not opening its doors on Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday Eve.
Yet, 14 of its stores began business for its anxious customers when the clock struck midnight Thursday, signaling the official start to the 2012 holiday shopping season.
Last year, a few of the Old Orchard stores opened at midnight, but with “mixed results,” admitted Westfield Old Orchard General Manager Tim Geiges.
“It was a new thing then, and I think people were just becoming familiar with it,” he said.
This year, shoppers were eager to get “doorbuster” deals at Macy’s, Gap Kids, Awake and many other stores. Some came to the mall as early as 10:30 p.m.
Old Orchard doesn’t yet have hard numbers, but the results of its Black Friday shopping weekend usually mirror national numbers, Geiges said.
If so, that would be good news for the Skokie shopping center.
Heading into Cyber Monday, an estimated 247 million shoppers across the country visited stores, according to the National Retail Federation.
The number of estimated shoppers over the weekend reflects a 9.2 percent uptick from last year’s Black Friday weekend, according to research conducted by BIGinsight for the National Retail Federation.
Research showed that the average holiday shopper spent $423 over the entire weekend, an increase from $398 last year. Total spending over the four-day weekend was estimated at $59.1 billion, a 12.8 percent spike from 2011.
Bert and Arlene Konderos, of Glencoe, headed to their car Friday morning in the west Old Orchard lot, both carrying a handful of bags from various stores. The day was cold but sunny, and the shopping traffic seemed brisk.
“We come out for most of our holiday shopping some time during the Thanksgiving weekend every year,” Arlene Konderos said. “We’re not going to wait in line at midnight – we’re not that nuts – but there’s still a lot of good deals over the first few days when it’s calmer.”
Teenager Alyssa Masteroni, of Chicago, was on her way to the Apple store where she planned to buy an iPod for her sister.
“She broke her mp3 player, so it’s was an easy gift to decide on,” Masteroni said. “I thought I might be able to get it a little cheaper today.”
Like all retailers, Westfield Old Orchard will benefit this year from some additional shopping time since Thanksgiving fell earlier than usual.
“Any time you can have a few extra days during the shopping season, it’s a good thing,” Geiges said.
Old Orchard also has spent time and money on a major revitalization project. It has new attractions and aesthetic enhancements from last year. An ice skating rink near Bloomingdale’s, for example, opened in the last week. The shopping center includes plenty of new stores as well.
Of course, there are other shopping opportunities in the area beside Old Orchard. Stores like Best Buy, for example, also opened at midnight Thursday and saw healthy business during Black Friday.
“It wasn’t this busy last year,” said Fred Herschell of Des Plaines, while waiting in line Friday afternoon in the Village Crossing store. “I thought many people would come out earlier since they opened at midnight. I should have known better.”