By Clayton Park
DAYTONA BEACH — Ted Teschner, owner of the Mr. Dunderbak’s restaurant at Volusia Mall, was expecting a busy day feeding hungry shoppers on Black Friday, but was surprised at just how busy it got.
“Our Black Friday may have been the best we’ve ever had,” said the longtime mall tenant, who celebrated 42 years in business this past week. “It was a 25 percent increase (in sales) over last year and last year was pretty good. We weren’t adequately staffed. It was like a steamroller.”
Teschner added that business for his eatery since then has remained up “closer to 5 to 10 percent” over the same time last year.
With the holiday shopping season approaching the midway mark, local retailers and restaurateurs said sales are on pace to exceed last year’s numbers.
“Black Friday was very crazy,” said Kelvin Oats, assistant store leader at the GameStop store at Volusia Mall. Oats added that the store on the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season, sold out of its entire inventory of Playstation 4 Slim game consoles in just two hours. “It’s going pretty good,” he added of sales at the store since then.
Corrine Conforto, manager of the FYE entertainment/toy store at Volusia Mall, also reported a strong start to the holiday season.
“We had a constant line at the (cash) registers for most of the day (on Black Friday),” she said, adding that the store was the second-best performing FYE location that day in the district, which covers several counties.
“It’s been a great holiday season so far,” Conforto said, adding that some of the top selling items at her store have been Fingerlings toys, which she described as “animatronic monkeys that sit on your hand and make noise,” Hatchimals and drones.
At the Tanger Outlets, General Manager Scott Sadove said in an email, “We’ve seen a lot of traffic at our center and expect to see it through the holiday.”
And it’s not just stores at the area’s major shopping centers that say they are doing well.
On East Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach, Angela Heaster, owner of the beachside Gaslamp Gift Gallery, said, “Both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday (also on Thanksgiving weekend) were very successful. We were definitely busier than we anticipated. It was wonderful.”
Heaster, who with her husband, own the Gaslamp Shoppes on Granada that includes her shop as well as several other independent shops and restaurants, said she has heard similar reports from her tenants.
“I think people are feeling more comfortable spending money,” she said, crediting the increased sales in part to the improving economy and rising consumer confidence.
Jeff Sidwell, owner of the Bon Gourmet wine-and-cheese shop at the Gaslamp Shoppes, said, “The holiday season seems like its gotten off to a rapid start better than last year and last year was strong.”
“A lot of people have been moving to town so we’re always meeting new people,” he added.
The Florida Retail Federation prior to the start of the holiday shopping season predicted that retail spending statewide would be up 3 to 3.5 percent over last year’s holiday season.
“So far, everything we’ve heard from our members, both big and small, is that everyone seems to be pleased,” said James Miller, a spokesman for the Florida Retail Federation.
And because Christmas this year falls on a Monday, that means the holiday shopping season will span five weekends, as opposed to just four most years.
“Having that extra weekend before Christmas is going to be huge,” Miller said. “The final weekend (before Christmas) is traditional the biggest (for retail sales).”
This year, shoppers in the Daytona Beach area have more options than ever, thanks to the new stores and restaurants opening at the new One Daytona retail/dining/entertainment complex across the street from Daytona International Speedway, and the Tanger Outlets mall on the east side of Interstate 95, which opened in November of last year.
In an effort to compete, not just with each other but also online retailers, local shopping centers, including Volusia Mall, Tanger and One Daytona are also offering entertainment and other special events during the holidays.
This Saturday, Tanger will hold a holiday tree-lighting event and will be offering “Selfies with Santa” events each Saturday afternoon through the rest of the month where children can have their photos taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Volusia Mall has a Santa’s village display in its Center Court where kids can have their photos taken with Old Saint Nick. Mall spokeswoman Kristina Circelli said a free afternoon concert is also planned at Center Court on Dec. 23 (and possibly also on Dec. 16). The mall also offers daily kids train rides.
One Daytona on Thursday kicked off its year-round offerings of daily live music and special events every Thursday through Sunday. The center will also hold a “Family Night On The Front Lawn” event on Dec. 16 that includes a s’mores bar, holiday carolers, face-painting and balloon animals, and a children’s story time.
All are line with what national retail consultant Howard Davidowitz described as necessary efforts by malls to “Amazon-proof themselves.”
Davidowitz, earlier this fall, said entertainment and special events can be a key to success for malls and brick-and-mortar retailers in seeking to compete with online retail giants such as Amazon.com.
“Malls need to focus on experiential offerings,” he said.
At Volusia Mall, Teschner of Mr. Dunderbak’s, said the Saturday before Christmas for his restaurant is typically 50 percent to twice as busy as it is on Black Friday. Gift baskets of gourmet food and deli items are especially good sellers at his eatery that day, he said, adding that many of those last-minute shoppers are typically men.
“It’s nice that we’re kind of like a tradition for some folks,” he said. read more