Looking to make plans for Valentine’s Day? The Garden State Wine Growers Association (GSWGA) is set to host its annual New Jersey Wine and & Chocolate Trail Weekends, featuring fine wine, artisan chocolate and live music, over the course of two weekends (Feb. 10-12 and Feb. 17-19).
According to GSWGA, participating wineries are offering up a range of date-worthy activities, such as wine flights, chocolate and wine pairings by a fire pit, special dinners, samplings and tastings, and vineyard strolls.
Devon Perry, GSWGA executive director, said, “Wine, chocolate and someone you love – it’s the perfect pairing, and the perfect way to start or continue your journey through New Jersey Wine Country – no passport required.”
Two popular North Jersey malls are trying to make shopping as easy as possible this holiday season.
The Mills at Jersey Gardens, one of the largest malls in the Tri-State area, is now offering a complimentary, hands-free shopping service that allows customers to buy bag-free at participating stores.
Powered by U.K.-based retail technology company Dropit, the service gives shoppers the option to have an unlimited amount of purchases delivered to their home or hotel or picked up from a kiosk before they leave the mall.
According to a spokesperson for the mall, Dropit delivers shoppers’ bags the next day.
The service, which will be available through Dec. 25 at Jersey Gardens, can be accessed via the Dropit app or requested by shoppers in-person at participating stores (Abercrombie & Fitch, Abercrombie Kids, Aerie, American Eagle, Bella Shoes, BOSS, Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Accessories, Calvin Klein Clearance, Coach, Coach Men, Custom Tee’s, DJB Boutique, Express, G by Guess, Garage, Guess, Guess Accessories, Hollister, Hot Topic, Kidstown, Nautica, Papaya, Polo Ralph Lauren, Polo Ralph Lauren Kids, Portabella, QL Shop, Quiksilver, Skechers, The Cosmetics Company Store, Tommy Hilfiger and Tumi).
Although Dropit can be found at several other shopping centers across the U.S., including The Galleria in Houston, The Forum Shops in Las Vegas and Phipps Plaza in Atlanta, this marks the service’s debut in New Jersey.
New Jersey’s second largest mall, Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, is hoping to reduce the stress of the season by giving shoppers the ability to Buy Now Pay Later (BNLP) for their holiday purchases at participating stores.
Thanks to a partnership with fintech firm Afterpay, the mall set up a special kiosk where customers can arrange to pay for items in a series of four interest-free installments and then be able take home their selected purchases right away.
The Afterpay holiday pop-up is also giving free gift-wrapping services to those who use Afterpay at Garden State. Additionally, shoppers who spend more than $100 in stores with Afterpay will qualify for $20 off their next in-store purchase through Jan. 15, 2023.
Participating stores include Aldo, Allbirds, American Eagle, Anthropologie, Aritzia, Aveda, Fabletics, Finish Line, Free People, J. Crew, LensCrafter, Lush, Madewell, Morphe, Nars, Nordstrom, PacSun, Pandora, Skechers, Soma, Steve Madden, Tillys, Ugg, Urban Outfitters and White House Black Market.
“The current climate demands a compassionate consumer perspective and we’re here to support that,” said Wesley Rebisz, the mall’s senior general manager. “Afterpay allows shoppers to leave with the items they love while also benefiting from paying over time.”
This offering comes as even more people plan to get their shopping done early this holiday season.
According to recent Afterpay research, more than 25% of consumers are planning to make their holiday purchases primarily in-store and nearly half are shopping early to ensure availability of the gifts they want to purchase.
Colin Shaughnessy, executive vice president, U.S. Leasing at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), parent company of Westfield Garden State Plaza, described Afterpay as “the ideal BNPL partner.”
He went on to say, “We [both] share a commitment to providing seamless and effective solutions to retailers that, in-turn, provide increased choice and flexibility for consumers.”
The compilation of “the most charming towns” to spend the holidays features destinations from coast to coast, with Aspen, Colo., ranked No. 1, followed by Ogunquit, Maine; Vail, Colo.; Nantucket, Mass., and Orlando, Fla.
Coming in at No. 21, Cape May drew praise for its family-friendly activities, quaint architecture and sweet treats.
“This Jersey Shore town has a strong Victorian streak and the holiday season pushes it a little further on the Dickensian scale. The walkable Washington Street Mall gets draped in greenery and festive lights. To sweeten the season, drop by the Original Fudge Kitchen, which also offers great fudge and saltwater taffy gift boxes,” the publication said. “If you have kids, check in to Congress Hall, where the Grand Lawn across from the beach turns into a seaside winter wonderland complete with festive activities.”
Atlantic City’s lively spirit helped it earn the No. 23 spot on Travel + Leisure’s list.
“A casino and boardwalk don’t exactly conjure images of plum puddings and carolers, yet travelers appreciate Atlantic City’s wild weekend spirit and vivid people-watching around the holidays,” the magazine wrote. “Festivities this year include the Tree Lighting and Holiday Musical Light Show at The Quarter at Tropicana. Plus, don’t miss the Atlantic City Bazaar at the Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University.”
This year also marks the start of a new, citywide celebration – the Atlantic City Tinseltown Holiday Experience, which features an array of holiday fun for the whole family, such as a winter wonderland parade and a Santa Claus-themed 5K/Kids Dash.
“Atlantic City is providing an experiential holiday celebration like never before for our visitors,” said Karen Martin, acting director of communications & marketing for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA). “Whether it’s touring the amazing decorations throughout the resort, taking in a holiday show at one of the casinos, shopping at the Tanger Outlets, or enjoying holiday-themed beverages by a fire pit, Atlantic City is the place to celebrate the holiday season with friends and families this year.”
Two different RWJBarnabas Health children’s hospitals welcomed the roar of hundreds of motorcycles recently, along with Santa and Mrs. Claus, to help kick off the holiday season with annual Toy Run events.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:51 p.m. EDT Dec. 2, 2022, to provide further detail in certain captions.
With the holiday season in full swing, Ideal Institute of Technology is kicking off an initiative that offers shoppers the ability to buy gifts and give back to the community.
As part of the Atlantic County-based career college’s “Spend with Purpose” program, gift cards can be purchased for use on the array of services provided through its student-run enterprises, such as printing, graphic design, video production and catering.
Ren Parikh, who founded Ideal a decade ago, said, “At Ideal, we don’t fundraise, we work-raise. For the holiday season, our students offer several gift options for everyone on your shopping list with Spend with Purpose gift cards, which can be used at our student enterprises, as well as towards purchases of goods from our woodworking shop.”
“Our social enterprises don’t just support Ideal students, they help others give back, whether that’s in the form of a cookie tray for your clients, a holiday office party at Ideal’s E-Sports facility, or simply lunch from our food truck,” he added. “There’s something at Ideal for every business need this holiday.”
Gift cards are available for $250, $500 or $1,000 and can be redeemed at any Ideal student enterprise, including Ideal AC ESports, Ideal Studio, Ideal Tech Center, Ideal Builders, Lion Motion Productions, Webever Technologies, AC Food Truck, Ideal Discount Club or Ideal QR Menu.
For more information or to purchase a gift card, click here.
Despite concerns about inflation and rising interest rates plaguing the 2022 holiday shopping season, retailers in New Jersey are optimistic that shoppers will open up their wallets – especially during the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend.
Ahead of the season’s official start on Black Friday, several forecasts have predicted that while consumers will spend, they’ll be looking to shop early – and wisely.
In the survey of 1,000 Americans, 74% said the economic environment is weighing heavily on their minds, compared to 66% who said the same in 2021. Despite this, 82% of consumers remain confident in their ability to manage their spending and 57% are creating a holiday-specific budget to stay on track, according to TD Bank.
A newly released poll from Stockton University found that two-thirds of shoppers said inflation is impacting their holiday spending and that 1 in 3 will spend less this year. Nearly half (46%) plan on spending the same, with only 13% shelling out more than last year. And, to prepare, 47% said they are spending less on everyday expenses to save more money for holiday spending, according to the poll of more than 500 New Jersey adults.
Across New Jersey, the annual pre-holiday sentiment survey conducted by Levin Management Corp. (LMC) found that the retail sector is mostly feeling merry and bright about the season.
Of the Plainfield-based firm’s 125-property portfolio, the survey found that 64% anticipate a positive holiday performance, an 8% decline from last year, while 25% said they were unsure how the season will play out, a 4.6% rise from 2021.
LMC Chief Executive Officer Matthew Harding said, “By all accounts, the retail industry has been enjoying a post-pandemic resurgence in 2022, and optimism continues. However, there is an overarching sense we are in changeable times – a sentiment extending well beyond the retail sector.”
Early starts and experiences
Just under half of respondents expect their sales to peak before or during the Black Friday weekend, up slightly from 2021, as more consumers start holiday shopping earlier, according to LMC.
In recent years, a growing number of big box retailers have opted to keep their doors closed on Thanksgiving Day and broadened Black Friday deals to several days or weeks. During the pandemic, the trend only intensified, with some chains offering those deep discounts as early as October.
At New Jersey’s second largest mall, Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, Senior General Manager Wesley Rebisz said they believe Black Friday will be busy, as shoppers look to “take advantage of the deals being offered by hundreds of retailers all in one place.”
“We’ve continued to see double-digit-percent increases in our spend per customer this year, as compared to 2019, and expect to have a strong holiday season,” he said. “We’re very fortunate at Garden State Plaza to have such loyal shoppers and we expect they will still come to us for their holiday purchases this season.”
Citing outlooks from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Deloitte, Harding said, “These studies indicate consumers plan to spend more on holiday shopping this year, partly due to the simple fact things cost more, but also because they want to treat their loved ones and celebrate the season.”
“They also report that inflation pressures have consumers focused on finding the best deals, and early-season promotions will be especially popular,” he said.
Looking past factors beyond their control, more and more retailers in New Jersey are also focusing their energy in areas where they can move the needle this holiday season, according to LMC’s survey.
Nearly one-quarter said they were trying new ways to enhance customers’ holiday shopping experiences, such as with loyalty programs, stepped-up customer service initiatives, and implementation of offerings like click-and-collect and same-day delivery service.
Tenants are also increasingly adding more in-store events as a way to draw people through the doors.
For instance, American Dream in the Meadowlands has transformed itself into “Dreamland” for the holiday season. Along with enjoying sales and festive décor, mall-goers can visit an indoor winter garden, take photos with Santa Claus or catch a train ride with Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys R Us.
Other experiences include ice skating with Santa at the mall’s National Hockey League regulation-sized rink, nightly lightings of a giant menorah, musical performances and a double-decker candy cane chute.
“When it comes to marketing, it is so important to evolve and take advantage of new opportunities,” said Melissa Sievwright, LMC’s vice president of marketing. “We are observing a laser focus on building customer relationships, which is crucial for brick-and-mortar as retailers work to counter e-commerce growth and gain market share within their competitive set. Companies that are in-tune with what inflation-stressed consumers want – value, convenience and service – are well positioned to prosper this holiday season and beyond.”
“While we may be past the ‘revenge shopping’ of 2021 – when pent-up demand fueled record sales – we see no lack of enthusiasm for being out in the world, shopping in stores and experiencing some in-person holiday cheer,” she said.
Numbers to know
Across the U.S., a record 166.3 million people are expected to shop at some point between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – an increase of almost 8 million people from last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Of those shoppers, 69% plan to do so on Black Friday, while 38% are expected to hit up online sales on Cyber Monday, the NRF said.
During Thanksgiving weekend, consumers plan to spend a total of $125 billion, a 10% increase over 2021, even with the holiday shopping season starting earlier this year than in previous years, ICSC found.
According to Deloitte, 8 in 10 consumers will shop during Black Friday through Cyber Monday, up 71% from 2021, and are projected to spend an average of $500 over the weekend — about 50% of their holiday budgets. It’s also 12% more than they spent last year for the weekend.
Altogether, holiday spending for the entire season could reach $960.4 billion, an 8% increase from 2021, the NRF forecasted.
“While there is much speculation about inflation’s impact on consumer behavior, our data tells us that this Thanksgiving holiday weekend will see robust store traffic with a record number of shoppers,” NRF President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said.
“We are optimistic that retail sales will remain strong in the weeks ahead and retailers are ready to meet consumers however they want to shop with great products at prices they want to pay,” he added.
As the holiday shopping seasons ramps up, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is urging online shoppers to be on the lookout and to stay vigilant against cyber criminals looking to target them.
CISA says that the holiday shopping season is a prime opportunity for bad actors to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers through various methods, such as fake websites, malicious links, fake charities and more.
According to the agency, the goal of cyber criminals is simple: get your personal and financial information to compromise your data, deploy malicious software, steal your identity, and take your money.
“As the nation’s cyber defense agency, our goal is to make sure Americans are safe online, especially during the holiday season,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly. “By following a few guiding principles like checking your devices, shopping from trusted sources, using safe purchasing methods, and following basic cyber hygiene like multi-factor authentication, you can drastically improve your online safety when shopping online for gifts this year.”
CISA is recommending a few easy actions to prevent people from becoming a victim of cyber criminals:
Shop through trusted sources: You wouldn’t go into a store with boarded up windows and without signage – the same rules apply online. If it looks suspicious, something’s probably not right.
Use safe methods for purchasing: If you’re going to make that purchase, what information are you handing over? Make sure you understand how your information will be stored and used.
“Your cyber safety should be treated like your physical safety,” Easterly added. “Stay vigilant, take steps to protect yourself, and trust your instincts. If you see something that doesn’t look right, there’s a good chance it isn’t.”
More tips from CISA on how to have a safe and successful online shopping experience this holiday season can be found here.
South Hackensack-based Dana’s Bakery teamed up with Morinaga America Inc., the official distributor of chewy candy brand HI-CHEW, to create a limited-edition treat to mark the holiday season.
The companies unveiled the Juicy Blood Orange Cranberry Mookie in a Nov. 22 press release announcing the collaboration. The sweet features a sugar cookie with “bursts of cranberry flavor” and “an inner layer surprise” — a HI-CHEW Juicy Blood Orange candy infused into the batter and buttercream.
Dana Pollack, founder and chief executive officer of Dana’s Bakery said, “I am a big HI-CHEW fan and was thrilled by the opportunity to create a custom mookie inspired by one of their latest flavors for the holidays. The HI-CHEW Juicy Blood Orange Cranberry Mookie is an ideal gift for any foodie on your list and is a delightful treat for all ages to indulge in this season.”
The HI-CHEW Juicy Blood Orange, one of the candy brand’s latest flavor offerings, debuted earlier this year in the Infrusions Orchard Mix.
Founded 10 years ago as a direct-to-consumer operation out of a small kitchen in Hawthorne, Dana’s Bakery has become known for its Instagram-worthy cookies, macarons and mookies, which are a cookie stuffed with a macaron inside.
Dana’s Bakery is now based in a 6,000-square-foot custom built facility in South Hackensack and ships to both customers and wholesalers nationwide.
Teruhiro Kawabe (Terry), president and CEO of Morinaga America Inc., said, “HI-CHEW is always looking for unique collaborations that bring vibrant, fruit-forward flavors to life in a unique and exciting way. We are thrilled to partner with Dana’s Bakery to infuse our HI-CHEW Juicy Blood Orange flavor into a delicious, layered treat that truly mimics our chewlets and welcomes the holiday season.”
A box of five HI-CHEW Juicy Blood Orange Cranberry Mookies can be purchased online for $28 through Dec. 30.
Instead of hitting the malls this weekend, how about hitting the trail?
Starting Nov. 25, the Garden State Wine Growers Association (GSWGA) will host a three-day New Jersey Holiday Wine Trail featuring special holiday-themed, family-friendly events at wineries throughout the state.
According to GSWGA, participating wineries are offering up a range of activities, such as photos with Santa Claus, fire pits and live music, as well as opportunities to get some gift shopping done at holiday bazaars and craft vendors.
Wineries on the trail include Bellview Winery in Landisville, Valenzano Winery in Shamong, Little Ridge Vineyards in Harmony Township, Dibella Winery in Woolwich Township, Angelico Winery in Lambertville and Natali Vineyards in Cape May.
“The holiday season revolves around family and friends. Did you know that each and every New Jersey winery is family-owned? There is no better way to support growers and small businesses than to visit a local winery,” said Devon Perry, GSWGA executive director. “The Holiday Wine Trail is local, family-friendly and a wonderful opportunity to discover New Jersey’s wine country.”
With over 60 wineries and vineyards, New Jersey is one of the top producers of wine in the country, according to the GSWGA.
For more information on the New Jersey Holiday Wine Trail, click here.
Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are the best days to catch retail sales, but did you know the cannabis industry has its own day of deals on Thanksgiving eve called “Green Wednesday”?
Created in 2016 by a California cannabis delivery platform after it noticed a large increase in sales the day before Thanksgiving, Green Wednesday has since expanded to other states with legalized cannabis marketplaces and become one of the highest-grossing days for the industry.
“As stigmas continue to break down, we look forward to the day when cannabis will be as synonymous as pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving,” he said.
This year marks the first Green Wednesday since New Jersey launched adult-use cannabis sales, and dispensaries across the state have a range of special offers for recreational consumers and medical patients:
At Garden State Dispensary’s retail locations in Woodbridge, Union and Eatontown, select vape cartridges will be marked down 20%. There will also be discounts on buds and flavored pre-rolled cannabis products.
Rise Dispensary is offering 20% off select brands, as well as 20% off accessories and 10% off everything else at its stores in Bloomfield, Paterson and Paramus.
TerrAscend is letting customers at its Lodi, Maplewood and Phillisburg shops build their own bundle for $99, which includes a product of their choice, swag item and a stash bag.
Curaleaf, which has dispensaries in Bellmawr, Edgewater Park and Bordentown, is giving a 25% discount on select vape brands, as well as 25% off all 3.5g Curaleaf brand flower.
Green Wednesday sales are also planned by other multistate operators, including Verano, which operates Zen Leaf in Elizabeth, Neptune and Lawrence; Acreage, which runs The Botanist in Williamstown; and Columbia Care, which manages The Cannabist in Deptford and Vineland.
The popularity of Green Wednesday shows how consumption patterns around celebrations are starting to change in the U.S. and that cannabis is becoming a consumer staple that Americans are willing to regularly spend money on, according to a recently released report.
Conducted by Ayr Wellness and global market research platform Suzy, an October 2022 survey of 1,600 cannabis consumers found that 24% will spend $100 or more on cannabis this Thanksgiving and 34% are likely to serve THC-infused food.
55% of consumers plan to purchase or consume cannabis on Green Wednesday;
40% of those buying on Green Wednesday are purchasing for themselves and gifting;
55% of those purchasing on Green Wednesday are buying flower.
As inflation concerns hover over the holiday season, popular food retailers are cutting prices on classic Thanksgiving items as a way to give shoppers some savings.
Through Nov. 29, the Batavia, Ill.-based, no-frills, deep-discount chain is rolling back prices on holiday essentials to pre-pandemic, pre-inflationary times.
Under the “Thanksgiving Price Rewind,” items such as appetizers, desserts, sides and beverages will be discounted up to 30% to match November 2019 prices. Holiday favorites with marked-down pricing include brie cheese, prosciutto, cornbread stuffing, wine, mini quiches, fresh brown-and-serve rolls, macarons and apple pie, Aldi said.
“Providing amazing products at the absolute lowest prices is what we’ve always done, and we know right now that’s more important than ever,” said Dave Rinaldo, president of Aldi U.S. “We expect to welcome tens of millions of customers in our stores this Thanksgiving season, and we want them to know they can count on us. So why not attempt that additional side dish this year, or invite over a few more friends or family members? You can rest easy knowing ALDI has your back this Thanksgiving, and beyond.”
Discount grocer Lidl, which has over two dozen locations across New Jersey, is also dropping prices ahead of the holidays.
The Arlington, Va.-based company is once again offering shoppers the ability to spend less than $30 to get all the items needed to prepare a Thanksgiving meal that feeds up to 10 people.
The Lidl basket includes a 13-pound frozen turkey, baby carrots (16 ounces), sweet peas (16 ounces), turkey stuffing mix (three 18-ounce boxes), one whole celery stalk, sweet potatoes (3-pound bag), Hawaiian sweet rolls (12 count), fresh cranberries (12 ounce), one gallon of whole milk, heavy whipping cream (1 pint), pumpkin pie mix (30 ounces) and two pie crusts.
“Even as grocery prices rise nationally, shoppers can rely on Lidl for the best deal to feed their family this holiday season,” said Stefan Schwarz, Lidl US chief product officer. “We are proud to offer shoppers at Lidl a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings for less than $30. We hope our low prices give families some financial relief as they come together this holiday season.”
The big box retailer is offering customers a discount on traditional holiday meal items, like turkey, ham, potatoes and stuffing, as well as convenience items, including ready-to-eat macaroni and cheese and freshly made pumpkin pie, and ingredients, such as cheese and pie crusts.
“Saving money is a top priority for our customers right now, so this year, we’re removing inflation on an entire basket containing traditional Thanksgiving items. We made significant investments on top of our everyday low prices so customers can get a traditional Thanksgiving meal at last year’s price at Walmart,” said John Laney, Walmart U.S. executive vice president, Food.
According to Laney, the company is currently rolling out the pricing and the markdowns will be in effect through Dec 26.
Ritz, the iconic cracker brand owned by Mondelez Global LLC in East Hanover, is teaming up with celebrity chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson to make the Thanksgiving season as stress-free as possible.
As part of a new, multifaceted holiday campaign, Samuelsson created a curated Friendsgiving Chef Service meal kit that will ship starting Nov. 14 via online marketplace Goldbelly.com.
The meal kits provide everything needed to whip up some of Samuelsson’s favorite seasonal recipes, including chicken meatballs and berbere honey brussels with Ritz cracker crumble, candied root veggies with spice pecans, Marcus’ cornbread stuffing, and dirty gravy.
Ritz also launched a Friendsgiving Chef Service sweepstakes that will afford one winner with the chance to host a Friendsgiving dinner for 10 that is expertly prepared by Samuelsson at his newest restaurant in New York City, Hav & Mar.
The dining experience will take place Nov. 14 and include an exclusive preview of Samuelsson’s recipes from the upcoming Ritz cookbook, “A Taste of Welcome: A Celebration of Food and Culture.” The publication, which was created in collaboration with Samuelsson and Bon Appetit magazine, is scheduled for release in December.
“Friendsgiving has become its own holiday, with hosts welcoming their chosen families and guests contributing dishes that often reflect their diverse cuisines and cultures,” said Mayte Killeen, senior brand manager, Ritz. “Food is a powerful connector and is a pivotal vehicle for welcoming others in to share a piece of who we are and where we come from, so it was natural for us to leverage our Taste of Welcome values to shine a light on the diversity that defines this special time of year for friends and families across America.”
Samuelsson said he is proud to partner with Ritz and “be part of a brand campaign that recognizes and celebrates culturally diverse families and holidays and the importance of diverse cuisine, tastes and flavors.”
The chef, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden before moving to the United States, recalled that when he first celebrated Thanksgiving, it was with roommates and restaurant co-workers in New York City.
“I was a young cook and new to this country and I remember making some Swedish herring. To me, there is nothing more satisfying or joyful than sitting down at a table full of friends and great food that represents who we all are,” Samuelsson said. “Now, my wife and I welcome 12 to 15 friends and family to our house in Harlem and our table is a mash-up of great food; everyone brings something: Filipino adobo, Peruvian ceviche, Nigerian suya. I didn’t grow up with Thanksgiving, but it has become one of the holidays I’ve learned to love the most and I’m excited to relive a little of that first Friendsgiving.”
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