[gr]Holiday shopping can be enjoyable or disastrous, a time to get out of the house and admire the gifts you\’d like for yourself, or a time of aggravating long lines and unwanted stress. Whatever it may be, the closer the holiday season is, the more hectic stores become. Retail stores traditionally experience a gift rush, stemming from the day-after-Thanksgiving sales and stretching right up until 10 minutes before the holiday family party. But do the shops on the Grand River strip experience the same crowds of holiday shoppers? With the majority of clientele falling in the category of students, final exams and packing up to trek home for the holidays might be a greater concern than picking up a sweater for Dad and an iPod case for Sister.
[moose]At MSU, not all students have a car to drive to the closest mall to do their holiday shopping. Therefore, the owners of local shops in the East Lansing area do whatever they can to get the business of students, as well as locals, during the holidays. Welcome Week is the busiest time of the year for these stores along Grand River; students are just coming back from vacation, ready to spend their summer savings or at least make a dent in their book list. But after the first week of school, business gradually dies down for these shops, that is, until the holiday season.
According to Mark Heinrich, assistant manager at Moosejaw, business really picks up again in November and stays busy until students go home for winter break in mid-December. “Sales get really popular here during the winter and Christmas time, especially because we sell a lot of winter clothes and jackets,” Heinrich said. “The students crowd in here until they go home for break and lots of parents continue to shop right up until Christmas day. Even people from the western side of the state shop here during the holidays: they’re all after the highly-coveted Moosejaw shirts we sell.” [bookstore]
English and education sophomore Melissa Benoit has scoured Grand River shops for holiday gifts, in an effort to buy presents with an East Lansing feel. Like many other MSU students, Benoit often is swayed by different holiday promotions. “Most of my family are U-M fans, so I try to get them to switch it up by buying them MSU stuff for gifts,” Benoit said.
The holiday shopping money of students doesn’t just fall into the hands of local store owners: they have to work to get the attention of shoppers and motivate them to come out in the cold to their shops. Melissa Mina has held the manager position at Campus Corner, at Division Street and Grand River, for four years. The store is known for custom embroidering on T-shirts and sweatshirts. According to Mina, most of the store’s business comes during the start of football season and during Christmas time. To encourage students to spend their cash during the holidays, the store puts on special sales and promotions. “After Welcome Week, our store becomes pretty dead until we start our ‘two-for’ deals during the holidays,” Mina said. While Campus Corner does see more students around the holidays, Mina said many students are too busy preparing for winter break to shop.
[poster]Instead of creating sales with existing merchandise, some East Lansing shops, including Beyond the Wall, bring in new merchandise and set huge discounts on all of their old products in hopes of getting rid of them. Assistant manager Neil Iskra said the reason his store survives is its location, at M.A.C. and Grand River. The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year, and the staff works to promote reasonably priced items. “Business is higher now than it has been since school started,” Iskra said. “We are in the process of cleaning up for all of our holiday merchandise, and we put on some amazing sales on what we have left around the store. We’re on a strip with so many popular stores, so a lot of students and local residents stop in to check out what we have on sale.”
[wish]Once stores attract students, many students adapt thrifty techniques to keep spending to a minimum. The holiday promotions make shopping easy for those students who want to be finished with the whole process before going home. “I usually have a set price range for each person I am shopping for, so if any of the stores have great deals going on and there is something that catches my eye, I’ll get it,” Benoit said.
Some students will use their cash obtained from selling back textbooks as part of their holiday budgets, including journalism junior Andrew Mouranie. “I go to the bookstore and sell all my books back, and then use that cash to do a good amount of my holiday shopping,” Mouranie said. “That way I get most of it out of the way, plus stores like Moosejaw and Steve & Barry’s are really popular stores and have some great sales right before break starts.”
Some young shoppers take advantage of the local sales and the absence of their peers in the shopping arena. Instead of rushing around hometown malls with the rest of the population a few days before the start of the holiday season, all searching for that elusive perfect gift, smart buyers work to finish shopping before packing up and heading home. [sale]“I try to pick out the best deals possible right before I go home so I can be stress-free for the holidays,” Mouranie said. “One thing is for sure: the stores on Grand [River] sure beat any deal you will ever find shopping at the mall. That’s a guarantee.”
On the other hand, many college students are best known for their procrastination abilities, and mid-December may be too early for students to think about starting the daunting shopping task. With the end of the semester approaching, some students do not have time to morph into holiday-shopper mode. Business junior Eric Sweidan is focused on his finals before the semester break and opts to do his shopping at a later time and away from East Lansing. “Before break, I’m generally studying for finals and don’t really think about going shopping until a few days before Christmas,” Sweidan said. “I like the mall at home better and generally find some good gifts there, so I stick with that system.”
It seems like the holidays start earlier every year, and with the gaudy tinsel decorations and gargantuan Christmas trees at the malls comes sales and promotions at stores eager for business from the annual gift rush. Even with limited incomes and possible procrastination tendencies, stores are after the money of students and depend on the camaraderie from the college town to pull in profits. Although some students choose to head home for holiday shopping, others opt for the offerings of the Grand River strip. Now, where are those newspaper advertisements?

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