NAPLES — Southwest Florida retailers are expecting a wave of customers this weekend as shoppers hustle to finish marking off their holiday gift list.
With only a few days before Christmas, Coastland Center mall in Naples already is reporting a hike in sales and is hopeful going into the final weekend before Christmas.
"We certainly are seeing this holiday season much healthier and with larger increases than we have seen the last few years," mall senior general manager Glen Harrell said. "From a local trend, we seem to all be enjoying a robust local economy and local sales."
Southwest Florida shopping centers and malls expect an increase in retail sales because it's the last weekend before Christmas and merchants will have two extra shopping days — Sunday and Monday — compared with last year when Christmas fell on a Sunday.
"We are seeing very healthy double-digits over last year," Harrell said, although Coastland Center doesn't release specific holiday sales figures.
Stores such as the new clothing retailer H&M are drawing shoppers to Coastland Center.
The mall has seen heavy business on weekends and a steady stream of customers on weekdays, Harrell said.
The mall will be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. today; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday. For the first time, Macy's will be open 68 hours straight; the stretch started at 7 a.m. Friday.
Along Naples' Fifth Avenue South, some stores and restaurants will open on Christmas, including Wind in the Willows and Kilwin's Chocolates.
"Merchants are eagerly anticipating a strong finish for the year and looking forward to a busy season," said Lise Sundrla, executive director of the Fifth Avenue South Business District.
Farther north, Waterside Shops will stay open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today. The shopping center will open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Christmas Eve from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Michele Jacobs, corporate director of marketing and operations for Forbes Co., the center's owner and manager, said they are excited about the full weekend and Monday.
Because Thanksgiving came early this year, Jacobs said, the shopping season also gained some extra days before Christmas.
Traditionally, there's a dip in sales the week after Thanksgiving and after the Black Friday rush, then it ramps back up in the days before Christmas and the week after Christmas.
Jacobs said the center expects retail sales to be stronger than last year.
According to the National Retail Federation's latest holiday survey conducted Dec. 4-10 by BIGinsight, the average person had completed 56 percent of their shopping by then, up from 46 percent this time last year and the highest percentage in the survey's 10-year history. Still, just 11.3 percent of Americans said they had finished with their lists by then, leaving much shopping to be done.
The survey to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays polled 8,333 consumers and had a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent.
Nearly half of those polled, or 47.8 percent, said the state of the U.S. economy will affect their spending plans. Of those affected, many will shop for sales more often (46.9 percent) and comparative shop online more often (36.7 percent). Eight percent said they are using layaway this holiday season.
According to the National Retail Federation, November retail sales increased 0.8 percent, seasonally adjusted, from October and increased 4.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year. The retail organization expects holiday sales to grow 4.1 percent over last holiday season.
Increases also were reported at The Mercato in North Naples and Miromar Outlets in Estero.
"Mercato has seen an increase in foot traffic over the past few weeks both during the day and in the evening," said Ashley Armstrong, Mercato's event and marketing manager. "We are confident the holiday season has and will bring a positive outcome for our retail and restaurant tenants."
Jeff Staner, Miromar's vice president, said sales throughout the year have shown a double-digit increase, compared to last year's sales.
"We've seen great sales and great traffic. Our parking lots are filled," Staner said. "We are anticipating the last few days before the holiday season will continue to be busier."
Miromar Outlets in Estero has extended its hours for the next few days. The outlets will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and Sunday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday. The day after Christmas, the outlets will open at 8 a.m.
Flamingo Island Flea Market in Bonita Springs also is ready for last-minute shoppers. The flea market is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Sunday.
"We expect thousands this weekend to shop here because of our unique blend of merchandise," said Gene Vaccaro, general manager at Flamingo Island Flea Market.