While Thanksgiving has long been the border between autumnal or turkey-themed decorations and the snowy, twinkling lights of the December holiday season, Christmas shopping has been on the radar at Eden Prairie Center since late October.

Both the mall and its individual retailers prepare weeks ahead for the rush of Black Friday shoppers and the influx of gift-seeking shoppers looking to get a head start on their to-do lists.

Eden Prairie Center’s management hires additional security and janitorial staff in anticipation of higher need in the winter season and opens its doors at 6 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 29, to accommodate sales-seeking shoppers, Nancy Litwin, the mall’s senior general manager, told Eden Prairie News in an email.

Visits on the Thanksgiving shopping weekend typically add up to at least 110,000 people, Litwin added.

While the mall sees a 30% boost in visits on a typical Black Friday — “It’s not uncommon for us to see at least 40,000 visitors on Black Friday,” Litwin said, up from 30,000 on a typical non-event day − some of the retailers at Eden Prairie Center have many more visitors at their other mall locations and end up sending employees to busier locations, according to Hannah Reed, a sales supervisor at Eden Prairie Center’s Designer Show Warehouse (DSW) location.

“It’s kind of like a regular Saturday busy for us,” Reed told Eden Prairie News. “We’re not really expecting that much traffic at this location.”

On Nov. 29, Reed will be at the store’s Mall of America location, where sales can reach up to $200,000 in a single day on Black Friday, she said.

While Black Friday may not be unusually busy for the retailer’s Eden Prairie Center location, the store typically hires 10 to 15 people to help manage the month-long busy period of holiday sales, Reed added.

While Michele Croat-Baggenstoss, owner of the Cham Bray boutique, has been hiring employees to staff her new location, she’s tapped friends and neighbors to help cover shifts and set up the store, which moved from Waconia to its Eden Prairie home in late October, she said. She knew fairly well what drew shoppers to her previous location, but she’s still figuring out the Eden Prairie shopper, she said.

“I don’t know what they’re coming to Eden Prairie for,” Croat-Baggentoss said. “I’m surprised at how many men are out earlier this year.”

Croat-Baggentoss stocks Cham Bray’s shelves with offbeat and eye-catching clothes and accessories to cater to women at every stage of life, and her inventory doesn’t change much during December, she said. Late November and early December are a time when shoppers, who aren’t yet feeling the looming deadline of Dec. 25, peruse the mall casually and take notes for their gift lists, she said.

“Right now is the time when they’re getting all their ideas and when it’s crunch time, they know exactly where to go,” she explained. “The only thing that I ever really add for the holidays are the gifting pieces, the stocking stuffers.”

That’s a marked contrast to Northwoods Boutique, which resides one level up from Cham Bray and is bursting with holiday spirit. The pop-up shop has been around for 40 years, estimated Kristi Neary, who’s in charge of running the store and the 80-plus local crafters and artists who sell their wares on its shelves.

“We’re ready for the hoards and hoards of people coming through the door,” Neary told Eden Prairie News.

This is the pop-up’s first year in Eden Prairie. It opened in late October and already, on a Friday morning in late November, a steady stream of holiday shoppers perused the store, picking out ornaments and treats.

“They want something made in Minnesota,” Neary explained. “They’re usually better quality.”

Nancy Running, of Bloomington, and Phyllis Skinner, of Shorewood, had each filled a shopping bag with wares from Northwoods on Friday morning.

“We’ve been going to it for years and years,” Running said. “We start for other people, but we end up buying more for ourselves.”

“It’s usually one of our first stops,” Skinner added.

The Northwoods Boutique is part of the holiday experience that Eden Prairie Center tries to offer its visitors. As the ease of online shopping continues to grow in popularity, retailers are moving toward more “experiential shopping,” Litwin told Eden Prairie News. That includes the mall’s visiting hours with Santa, holiday musical performances, and selfie contests that visitors can participate in for the chance to win gift cards.

“Changes in retail have inspired brick and mortar retailers and enhanced their processes for growth and success,” Litwin said. “They’ve been motivated to change daily, keep up and stay ahead by knowing consumer trends, data analytics, inventory and customer conversions both online and in store.”

As much as change has already arrived in retail trends, Croat-Baggentoss sees malls like Eden Prairie Center as the heart of the holiday season.

“You walk in and you see Santa, you see the pretty lights,” she said. “Where is the spirit of the holidays? Everyone’s shopping, it’s at the mall.”

Eden Teller is the multimedia reporter for Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about fostering productive conversations and empowering communities. When she's not reporting, she can be found reading a book, on a hike or tackling home improvement projects.


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