Walnut Creek braces for holiday crowds, parking, traffic while questions percolate over the health of this year’s retail season

Even before the Halloween decorations and other tchotchkes came down in local stores, the Christmas stuff went up.

So, forget Black Friday, the Christmas shopping season is already in full swing. As a matter of fact, some retailers are getting a jump on Black Friday. According to the Wall Street Journal, retailers are turning it into “monthlong parade of promotions” by offering high-profile discounts. So in a post-Great Recession world, Black Friday might be going by the wayside. And, by the way, if you know of any major deals you want to share with readers, chime in.

A few weeks ago, predictions were grim about this coming holiday shopping season. More recently though, some retailers have posted unexpected third-quarter profits, including Wal-Mart stores, Inc., Kohl’s Corp., and Nordstrom Inc. Still, the Chicago Tribune says, “although the results beat company expectations, executives at all three chains conceded that they faced a tough selling period ahead.” So even though retailers’ profits are up, consumers may still be wary, especially with national unemployment at 10.2 percent.

What will this mean for the East Bay’s retail Mecca, downtown Walnut Creek? Who knows.? I’m guessing that the crowds will still descend, as they always have; the question is whether they will spend like it’s 2006, or spend more time browsing, looking for those deep discounts, and ultimately spending like it’s 2008.

There may be more empty store fronts than the same time last year. However, new shops and restaurants have been going in. And, a couple major chain retailers that, some analysts said, were not expected to make it into 2010 have hung in: Cost Plus World Market and Williams-Sonoma.

City staff are making an effort to “tame the holiday traffic Grinch.”

The city, the Downtown Business Association, Chamber of Commerce, and property managers for the major retial and private parking garages have “teamed up to create stress-free parking for the season.”

According to the city’s November/December edition of its In a Nutshell, “the goal is to get cars off downtown streets as quickly as possible by making parking easy to find and encouraging shoppers to ‘park once’ and walk or use other means of getting around.” The powers that be hope to accomplish this by posting new signs leading motorists to parking facilities; police staff directing traffic; and extended hours for the free downtown trolley. Between November 27 and December 12, the trolley will run until 10 p.m., and until 11 p.m., between December 14 and December 23.

Councilman Kish Rajan said this new emphasis on easing the parking and traffic crunch was not prompted by concerns about Recession retail struggles.

“I am not aware of any specific anaylsis/ projection of the crowds we expect,” he e-mailed me. “Of course we are hopeful for a good shopping season. The intent here was to take some of the longer term ideas we considered and to put them in place right away — both to try improve customer experience this season and to test what works best for the long term. “

9 thoughts on “Walnut Creek braces for holiday crowds, parking, traffic while questions percolate over the health of this year’s retail season

  1. Sorry guys, online shopping for me this year.

    No parking fuss, can do it in my jammies, easier to compare prices, less likely to get the flu or a cold, no cranky clerks who don't know the stock, many times no sales tax, more selection of stores and the list goes on.

    No, I do not feel unloyal to my town for shopping online as my goal is to make my life less stressful and more pleasant. My home and computer help me attain my goal.


  2. I, too, do much of my shopping online. I don't go out on Black Friday because I”m not interested in getting trampled.

    This year, the kids and I will be making many of our Christmas gifts. Fancy candied apples, peanut brittle, homemade soap, lip balm, etc.


  3. Thanks, prior posters, for opening up parking for ME. Right in front of my favorite store or only a couple of blocks away from a very inexpensive garage!

    I feel really good about my sales taxes paying for parks, arts, children & police services. I hope you change you mind and join me by shopping in Walnut Creek.



  4. I'll be downtown this year. I love going down there to buy a few things, then stroll around, grab a coffee, maybe sit by the fountain across from Nordstorms and watch all the foot traffic.

    Sure, I shop on-line too. But getting out in the hustle and bustle with nothing much to do is great fun for me. I know where to park, but if it's nice I'll ride a bike there.

    The plaza's flower pots usually look awesome this time of year.

    Whatever you do, enjoy!


  5. You couldn't get me anywhere near downtown during the Christmas season. And this year, especially, I plan to spend as little as possible. I may just pick-up $15 gift cards at Safeway and be done with it.


  6. The absolute best time to visit Broadway Plaza is after the stores close for the evening, especially this time of year.

    Chilly nights, no crowds, parking not a problem and security is pretty good. I take my dogs down there quite often after 9 pm and always have a pleasant time just window shopping.

    I know that it doesn't generate any sales tax but it sure is a nice way to finish the day.



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