Merchants in downtown Grand Junction look toward the upcoming holiday shopping season with the same trepidation as their counterparts across the Grand Valley.
Sharp downturns in holiday shopping the past two years have them hoping the scenario won’t get any worse and that 2010 could bring an upturn in sales during November and December. At the same time, merchants know only too well consumer optimism is not nearly as strong as it was in 2007 and it’s possible sales could remain flat compared to last year.
“Let’s just say the merchants are certainly hopeful and we’re doing things to attract shoppers,” said Kathy Dirks, marketing director for the Downtown Partnership, which includes the tax-funded Downtown Development Authority as well as the merchants’ internal organization, the Downtown Association.
For starters, the annual Christmas tree lighting event downtown has been moved up a week to the Friday before Thanksgiving instead of the day after Thanksgiving.
Dirks said so-called black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — is a day many people think of shopping instead of attending a tree lighting.
The lighting outside of Wells Fargo Bank at Fourth and Main streets is set for 5 p.m. Nov. 19 and will include a visit from Santa Claus.
Some businesses already are in the holiday spirit with Christmas displays and unique holiday products.
Dirks said businesses are more unified in extending their hours this year. Beginning Nov. 18, many merchants will remain open Thursday nights from 7 to 9 through Dec. 23 with the exception of Thanksgiving.
The idea for downtown stores to remain open for longer hours on Thursday nights grew from a discussion about the success of the Thursday evening Farmers’ Market, which is staged from June through mid-September downtown. Some merchants have even pondered whether to remain open Thursday evenings year-round.
“And more and more businesses are open Sunday afternoons,” Dirks said. Many stores that aren’t normally open Sundays will open beginning Nov. 28 and continue the extra hours through Dec. 19. Dirks said many businesses are open on Sundays apart from the holiday season. Triple Play Records and others are trying to increase business during a day when many people are off work and tourists stroll downtown streets.
“I’m impressed by the passion displayed by the merchants downtown,” Dirks said.
The Downtown Partnership is once again offering a gift certificate program. People wishing to give the certificates as holiday presents can get information at the downtown website at www.downtowngj.org.
Dirks encourages business owners to think of the certificates as gifts for employees, particularly if a business has had to curtail other employee benefits during the soft economy.
In addition to the tree lighting ceremony, other downtown holiday events will include the Parade of Lights starting at 5 p.m. Dec. 4. Many entries are already lined up for the parade, Dirks said. The parade is usually the largest of the year in Grand Junction, lasting for about two hours.
On Dec, 11, the Avalon Theater will host a visit with Santa followed by a tour of holiday lights in the area.
The Chocolate Walk is set for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 17. The event will feature tours of historical locations and Art on The Corner sculptures as well as lots of hot chocolate.
Following the holiday season, work is set to begin on a street renovation project along Main Street from Fourth to Seventh streets. The work will continue until June.