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Jolly shopping souls

Mandy Moltzan of Frazee does some shoe shopping at Lakes Sport Shop Saturday afternoon. Last year, sales increase nationally 58 percent for sporting goods from November to December.1 / 4
JCPenney in Detroit Lakes adds more help, more merchandise and is open longer hours during the Christmas season, and weekends especially have been quite busy.2 / 4
Anita Price helps Larry Noah pick out jewelry at Price's Fine Jewelry. The Christmas season is a popular time for engagement rings, anniversary bands and diamond earrings. Jewelry sales increased 113 percent nationally last year from November to December.3 / 4
Mike and Sydney Stewart of Detroit Lakes search for the perfect Christmas tree at the Young Life lot. The amount spent on imported ornaments is in the millions.4 / 4

'Tis the season to be jolly -- and spend a jolly amount of money.

And statistics show a very large portion of that money goes to imports from China.

The U.S. Census Bureau has collected some Christmas-related facts:

Retail sales by the nation's department stores in December of 2010 totaled $27.2 billion.

"This represented a 44 percent jump from the previous month," according to the bureau. "No other month-to-month increase in department store sales last year was as large."

Those jumps from November to December last year include 33 percent for clothing stores, 44 percent for electronic stores, 58 percent for sporting goods, 92 percent for book stores, and 113 percent for jewelry stores.

"What jewelers wait for is December," said Anita Price of Price's Fine Jewelry in Detroit Lakes.

"Pieces of jewelry are well received. Women like to receive them, and it's a great time of the year to give it," she said. "It's one of those presents that people appreciate getting at this time of the year, a piece of jewelry unexpectedly under the Christmas tree."

Price's is having an extra event this year. If Detroit Lakes should receive three inches or more of snow on Christmas Day between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Price's will refund any purchases made between Nov. 25 and Dec. 17.

"It's been a great opportunity for us to bless our customers back if we get this three inches of snow, being able to give them a refund check," said Price.

But the promotion aside, Price said the jewelry store sees an increase in engagement rings, diamond earrings, custom pieces and colored gems.

She said they have been seeing an increase in chocolate diamond sales, along with other dominant-colored gemstones and fashion rings this year.

"That's some of the fun stuff you're seeing just with the trends within the jewelry industry," she added.

Diamond anniversary bands, diamond earrings and engagement rings are top sellers during the holiday season as well.

"We see a bump up in engagement rings just because of that element of surprise that people like to be able to present at Christmas or New Year's Eve. It's a great time to surprise somebody you love with a piece," Price said.

Nationwide, the sales in December of last year made up 14 percent of the 2010 total sales for department stores. For jewelry stores, it was 20 percent of the total year's sales.

From Aug. 31 to Nov. 30, 2010, inventories in national department stores increased 24 percent. In December alone, inventory fell 22 percent.

"We've been actually quite busy," said Nancy Erickson of JCPenney Department Store in Detroit Lakes. "Weekends are really wild."

In preparing for the Christmas season, Erickson said that JCPenney adds extra help, extends store hours and puts out extra merchandise. And those stocking shelves are working constantly to keep the shelves full of product.

"It's an every day push of selling and trying to keep it filled," she said.

The number of trucks bringing in freight increased from two trucks a week to three a week for about a month and are just now starting to get back to the regular routine of two trucks a week, Erickson added.

Nationwide, the value of retail sales by electronic shopping and mail-order shopping was estimated at $34 billion in December 2010. That is the highest amount of any month throughout the year.

"In 2009, there were 150,205 clothing and clothing accessories stores; 8,663 department stores; 8,424 hobby, toy and game shops; 27,738 gift, novelty and souvenir shops; 21,628 sporting goods stores; 24,973 jewelry stores; and 9,390 book stores across the nation," according to the Census Bureau. "The figures shown are for locations with paid employees and do not include non-employer firms."

Erickson said that yes, JCPenney online sales increases during the Christmas season as well.

"There is more Internet shopping," she said. "It's been quite busy."

With all JCPenney stores linked, the company also does referrals between stores to find the products or sizes people are looking for specifically and gets them shipped to the store for the customer's convenience.

"People are trying to shop locally as well. I believe that with Kmart, Walmart and Menards out there (west of town), we're getting more of our small towns like Park Rapids, Pelican Rapids, those kind of shoppers staying here, rather than going to Fargo. They already have those big stores."

As far as attitude of shoppers this season, "we have a lot of people that are just really, really happy we are here," she said with a laugh.

Other Christmas products

Besides all of the Christmas gift giving, there are the Christmas trees and decorations. Between January and September of this year, the United State imported $983 million worth of Christmas tree ornaments from China.

During the same period of time, China was also the top provider for artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States, at $79.7 million worth.

Both figures make China the No. 1 country of origin for Christmas tree ornaments and fake trees sold in the United States. Merry Christmas, China.

In 2009, there were 88 establishments around the United States that primarily manufactured dolls and stuffed toys. California alone had 15 of those locations.

Also in 2009, there were 579 locations that "primarily produced games, toys and children's vehicles; they employed 7,858 workers. California led the nation with 98 establishments."

But, for toy imports, China supplied the United States with $2.5 billion worth of stuffed toys, including dolls, puzzles and electric trains, between January and September of this year.

China also brought in $24.6 million worth of roller skates, $253.8 million of sports footwear and $38.9 million in basketballs.

"China leads Thailand as the leading supplier of ice skates ($17.7 million versus $9.8 million), with Canada ranking third ($4.2 million)," according to the bureau.

Holiday town, U.S.A.

On a more fun note, the U.S. Census Bureau also compiled a list of locations throughout the United States that have a close tie to the Christmas season.

Next season, visit North Pole, Alaska (population 2,117); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,481); Santa Claus, Ga. (165), and Noel, Mo. (1,832).

How about looking up some reindeer in Rudolph, Wis. (439), or Dasher, Ga. (912).

And then there's Snowflake, Ariz. (5,590), and a dozen places with Holly in the town's name, including Holly Springs, Miss. (7,699), and Mount Holly, N.C. (13,656).

Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Year's

According to tradition, Hanukkah foodies like potato latkes. Fifty percent of the potatoes produced in the United States last year came from Idaho and Washington.

In 2009, $1.5 billion worth of candles were shipped throughout the United States by the nation's manufactures; many of said candles were lit during Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations.

The nation's projected population as we ring in the New Year is estimated to be more than 312 million.