Retailers hope lights fest draws customers

CHICAGO Michigan Avenue retailers hoping Mickey has the magic touch -- and can start their cash registers ringing.

"I don't have as much cash but I still was to get Christmas presents for the people I care about," said Marta Jakubowski, lights festival attendee.

Before and after the annual lighting of the Mag Mile -- people packed the stores. Traditionally it is the biggest day for business at the Gap store on Michigan Avenue. It's a retailer that's bucking national trends -- just yesterday Gap posted its sixth consecutive quarter of increased earnings.

"The recession isn't here today, this is an absolute familial day and people are out shopping. I've heard customers say "wow, the holidays are here!'" said Barbara Cook, Gap vice president.

Gap execs say they're not discounting merchandise any more than they did last year. But many other stores are. Customers like Brandi Grant are who worry retailers the most. Her buying decisions are influenced by one thing: Fear.

"It's overall fear. My income actually has increased but I'm trying to save for a later date is the main goal," said Brandi Grant, shopper.

Shoppers are certainly being inundated by offers. Some stores opening early, others staying open late. Almost all are offering deals. Despite the scrooges running rampant on Wall Street, Chicago's most famous shopping strip appears to be faring well, for now.

"We don't have a single store with a front door on Michigan Avenue available at the present time so there's not a vacancy issue," said John Maxsom, Greater N. Michigan Avenue Association.

The issue is to keep customers flocking to stores and the bang in what may be a brutal holiday shopping season.

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