Shoppers seek out frugal, useful presents
Versatility, quality and uniqueness are key in the search for this year’s hot gifts — whether they be clothing, toys or jewelry.
In a tough economy, consumers are also looking for value, according to Michael Bernstein, owner of Simon’s Men’s Wear. Reversible sweatshirts are popular, as are dress shirts that have reversible cuffs and collars so they can be adapted, depending on a desired look.
Bernstein showed off a cashmere sports coat and said people can wear it with jeans or dress slacks.
“The whole idea is to buy things you can mix, match — go casual or dress up. It turns out to be far more inexpensive.”
The concept of versatility also applies to jewelry. Anthony Kaczmarek, operations director for Sondra’s Fine Jewelry, said Murano glass beads are popular this year. People can create their own custom pieces. “This is a more modern edition of a charm bracelet,” Kaczmarek said.
Rose-colored gold is also in style this year, and diamonds remain a perennial favorite. “Every girl wants one of those in her jewelry box,” he said.
Donna Thomas, owner of Vintage Chic Furniture on Union Street, said green gifts are hot this year. “I’ve noticed a big surge in sales, especially in the vintage and recycled market,” she said.
She was showing off Christmas tree ornaments that were made from recycled tin ceiling and stuffed animals made from reused bedspreads.
For the literary type, books are always popular. Janet Hutchison, owner of the Open Door Bookstore on Jay Street, said there are new titles in a variety of genres so there is something for everybody. Gregory Maguire has his fourth and final volume in the Oz series, and the Beekman Boys of Sharon Springs have a new cookbook out.
Hutchison said there is a gift book by Colleen Burke called “Christmas with the First Ladies” and new biography by “Hardball” host Chris Matthews called “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero.”
Also, from unearthed manuscripts is a new work by the late poet Shel Silverstein. “His previous titles still sell well for us,” she said.
The Retail Council of New York expects that clothing and electronics, including tablet computers and electronic readers, will be hot sellers, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Flach.
Electronics retailers are excited for video games like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” “Battlefield 3” and “Batman: Arkham City.” For other toys, Bob Friedland, spokesman for Toys R Us, said one of the trends this year is “gross is good.”
Along that line, the store stocks Trash Pack garbage collectibles and the Dr. Dreadful Zombie Lab, where children use three models of body parts to make “disgusting, but tasty drinks,” Friedland said.
Accessories for technology like the iPad are also big, including Cars 2 AppMATes, which are little versions of the characters in the movie that children can move around with a finger.
The “Playskool Poppin’ Park Eelefun Busy Ball Popper” for infants is popular, featuring an elephant shooting plastic balls from his trunk.
For toddlers, Fast Lane Stunt City playset is a motorized launcher like a track city.
“There’s a whole bunch of stunts and jumps that kids can do while they’re playing with the car,” he said.
For ages 8 to 11, “Air Swimmers Extreme” are shark or clown fish that are radio-controlled and filled with helium so a player can turn a room into an aquarium.
“You can control them in any direction no matter where you are. They swim like real fish.”
FIDO AND FLUFFY
It’s important not to forget Fido or Fluffy during this holiday season.
Marie DeBrocky, owner of Head to Tail pet supplies and grooming store on Union Street, said a favorite this year is a new type of sturdy dog chew toy called Mighty Dog. The toys come in different kinds of animals including dragons. While no dog toy is indestructible, DeBrocky said these are very sturdy and will last a long time.
“People would rather buy quality and get something that’s going to last a little more, rather than something that’s going to break the next day,” she said.
For felines, a spring toy is hot this year. “They can catch it in their claws and bounce them up and down,” she said.
A total of 62 percent of the Retail Council of New York’s members surveyed anticipated that the holiday season would be the same as or a little better than 2010. The economy is still somewhat weak and people were concerned about the lack of jobs here and how Europe’s debt crisis might affect our economy. High food and grocery prices are also pinching consumers, so cost will be a major factor for holiday shoppers, according to Flach.
Department stores and discount retailers are expected to do well in this environment.
“Everybody is very price-conscious and looking for good deals,” she said.