The Saturday before Christmas is always the busiest shopping day of the year, according to Simon Property Group, which manages such shopping centers as the Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall Township and the Crossings Premium Outlets in Tannersville.
But, with Christmas falling on a Monday this year, this Saturday is expected to be even busier than the normal last shopping Saturday for Christmas.
“It’s going to be nuts,” said John Ferreira, manager of the Lehigh Valley Mall. “You’ve got two days left to shop.”
Ellen Smoll, general manager of the Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing, is also expecting massive crowds of frenzied shoppers.
That means mall operators have to be ready to handle the crowds and stress and take extra precautions that traffic in, out and through the malls runs as smoothly as possible.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of mentality,” Smoll said.
Ferreira said his management team works with all of the mall staff, including janitorial and security, to make sure everything is cleaned up and secure and that crowds are moving.
Smoll said her mall also works with police to make sure any traffic tie-ups heading in or out of the mall are managed.
Ferreira said customer service is exceptionally important on a busy day like Saturday is expected to be.
“People put things off to the last minute. In their mind … they think the later they wait, the better the deals, but sometimes you can’t get what you want. They run out,” he said.
That can mean frustrated stressed-out shoppers struggling to find their last-minute needs.
He said all mall staff is trained to help customers in a pinch, with directions or any other help they might need to keep the shopping experience less stressful.
One thing malls like to do to ease stress and remind people why they’re there is to keep up the holiday spirit with entertainment and decorations.
Lehigh Valley Mall has a selfie-station where folks can take photos in front of the mall’s Christmas decor. Also, school choral groups will be performing carols and other similar shows.
The Berkshire Mall is even getting a visit from a wintertime friend besides Santa.
Slappy, the Reading Royals mascot, and some of the ice hockey team’s players will visit the mall to greet shoppers.
But still, Smoll said, while they can do everything they can to make a busy day at the mall the most pleasant experience it can be, there is only so much they can do when that many people descend on a shopping center at once.
Ferreira said shoppers should just be prepared for the crowds and try to keep a good attitude.
“You know it’s going to be busy,” he said. “My advice is to calm down and relax. It might take you a little time, but you will get it done.”