Dec. 15--A A
Still shopping for that tasteful host or hostess gift, stocking stuffers or some other perfect item to put under the tree?
Worry no more.
We asked a few Clark County retailers to tip us off on the season's top gift ideas, based on what their customers ask about and what they've bought so far in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
For the retail industry, this is a year of modest expectations. The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will increase by just 3.9 percent over 2012 sales and that the average consumer will spend $738 on gifts, decor and greeting cards this year, down from the $752 they spent last year.
But Clark County merchants say they are already noticing busier store traffic this holiday season than in 2012. With the economy still shaky, it's hard to predict whether local consumers will spend cautiously through the holiday season or put a bit more cash into gift-giving. Area retailers hope for more spending, of course, and they'd like to beat last year's sales with these "must haves" of the season.
Washington State University Vancouver: 14204 N.E. Salmon Creek Ave., Vancouver.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
What's hot: WSU sweatshirts and anything else in team crimson and gray, says Jeff Ehli, manager of WSU Vancouver's campus bookstore, The Bookie. He believes brisk sweatshirt sales this year have been influenced by WSU's scrappy (6-6) Cougars football team.
"When the Cougars are doing better, we definitely sell more sweatshirts," Ehli said.
The team landed its first bowl game in a decade and will take on Colorado State in the Dec. 21 New Mexico Bowl. It will no doubt generate higher demand for WSU colors. The sweatshirts are priced from $33 to $55 and come in crewneck, zip-up and hooded styles. WSU Vancouver's bookstore is located downstairs in the Student Affairs Building (the only campus building marked by an American flag). There's also metered parking spaces, with the first 30 minutes free in the lot just under the flag.
Ehli says Cougs fans can show their devotion with a host of other store merchandise as well, from logo-emblazoned cellphone covers to footballs, coffee mugs, car flags, bumper stickers and license plate frames.
National bookseller Barnes & Noble has a contract to operate the campus bookstore, and 10 percent of all local sales go to support the Vancouver campus.
"It's the best selection of Cougs merchandise in town," Ehli said.
A Vintage Gathering
100 E. Main St., Battle Ground.
Hours: 10:30-ish to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
What's hot: Fudge and other individually wrapped sweets and delicacies made by local confectioners, such as the Vancouver-based Joseph Group and Battle Ground chocolatiers Whimsy Chocolates and Barking Good Stuff.
"A lot of people are buying these as stocking stuffers," said Lori Harris, owner of the shop that sells eclectic vintage and traditional home dÃ©cor and gifts.
Harris works to sell store items for a diverse group of about 21 antique dealers. The store's vintage merchandise fits a variety of home decor classifications. They include primitive items, which are kept in a natural state; shabby chic distressed furnishings; and Victorian vintage lace doilies and ornate wall art.
A Vintage Gathering also carries gifts made by home-based businesses, such as Western Dream Designs. The one-woman, stay-at-home-mom business produces long-burning soy candles and warmers in a variety of scents that are also best sellers with A Vintage Gathering's clientele, Harris said.
"The candles burn for up to 118 hours," she said. "They make a great housewarming or hostess gift."
Dice Age Games
5107 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Suite 105, Vancouver.
Hours: noon to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sun