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Countdown to Christmas

With the countdown to Christmas down to a couple of day, retailers are pulling out the stops to lure consumers. Extended hours, sales and specials are all on the table. Kohl's extended store hours to be open 24 hours a day leading up to Christmas...

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Kitty Jokela gives out Disney snowglobes to customers Sunday at J.C. Penney in Baxter. Customers Brett Atwood, Karen Churchill and Aurora, 7, and Anastasia Churchill, 6. Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson

With the countdown to Christmas down to a couple of day, retailers are pulling out the stops to lure consumers.

Extended hours, sales and specials are all on the table. Kohl's extended store hours to be open 24 hours a day leading up to Christmas. Other stores are opening early or closing late as shoppers rush to get their lists complete as time runs short. And J.C Penney brought out a keepsake not typically seen after Black Friday. JCPenney brought out a second wave of its collectible Disney snow globes opening at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Kitty Jokela, 14-year J.C. Penney employee, said Black Friday was busy with a wave of shoppers hitting the store. Coupons in the snow globes helped fuel the demand for the collectibles featuring Mickey Mouse, which meant some customers who regularly collected the domes were unable to get them. So J.C. Penney launched the globes a second time Sunday in an unusual move to give regular collectors of the free item another chance.

Karen Churchill has been collecting the snow globes about 15 years, first coming in with her daughters. Sunday, Churchill was with two of her granddaughters, Aurora and Anastasia Churchill, and their father, Brett Atwood, to get the snow globes. Churchill was working on Thanksgiving so she wasn't able to collect the globe.

"We were disappointed when they had those buttons a couple of years ago," Karen Churchill said. "Then we had them last year so were excited when we saw it."

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J.C. Penney used social media to spread the work on the snow globe return.

Retailers used discounts to appeal to shoppers although the National Retail Federation reported a turbulent start to the 2014 holiday shopping season as fewer shoppers were out and those who were shopping spent less.

The National Retail Federation expected sales to increase a healthy 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, higher than 2013's actual 3.1 percent increase during the same time frame.

"Holiday sales on average have grown 2.9 percent over the past 10 years, including 2014's estimates, and are expected to represent approximately 19.2 percent of the retail industry's annual sales of $3.2 trillion," the federation reported. "This would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales would increase more than 4 percent."

National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay: "While expectations for sales growth are upbeat, it goes without saying there still remains some uneasiness and anxiety among consumers when it comes to their purchase decisions. The lagging economic recovery, though improving, is still top of mind for many Americans."

One thing is clear, online sales are increasing. Some market watchers report if Black Friday isn't dead it is dying as sales and early discounts begin to move throughout November. This year, besides earlier openings on Thanksgiving for brick and mortar stores, retailers offered online sales even before Thanksgiving. A Baxter store owner said he thinks it's only a matter of time before stores are open on Christmas Day in the afternoon to take advantage of after-Christmas sales even earlier and attract shoppers in with their gift cards.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .

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J.C Penney brought out a keepsake not typically seen after Black Friday. JCPenney brought out a second wave of its collectible Disney snow globes opening at 8 a.m. Sunday. Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson

Related Topics: RETAILCHRISTMAS
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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