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Darcy Shippey

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An estimated 3,000 shoppers lined up, bleary-eyed, at the Boise Towne Square mall's recent 1 a.m. opening on Black Friday. It was mayhem, but it did pack 'em in. Whose idea was this? We called Darcy Shippey, mall marketing manager.

Shippey coordinates events like the Rockin' Shoppin' Eve, as well as advertising, media relations and a host of other jobs for the mall. She took a moment out from the holiday frenzy to talk with BW about anxious shoppers, the commercialization of Christmas and what's on her wish list this year.

What does your job entail?

I'm the marketing manager for the mall. [I oversee] events like Santa, the Easter Bunny, mall promotions, any interior and exterior advertising, sale events, back-to-school events, as well as any [public relations]. I've done this for almost 18 years now. I've been at five different centers for the same company, General Growth. General Growth is the company that owns this mall, and they own about 200-plus shopping centers across the United States. It's the second-largest shopping-center owner and developer in the United States.

What new stores are coming?

Sephora is our biggest, newest one. It's coming in February, which is a huge feather in our cap. They offer a full line of beauty, and they're very interactive with consumers, and we're very excited to have them. They're a larger, upscale store that really adds value to our mall. We have Talbot's that just opened in October.

How is downtown growth affecting the mall?

If anything, it's added value to our center. I think that it's brought a lot of attention to this area. Some of the tenants who have looked here have also looked downtown.

What do you like about your job?

The fact that every day is a different day. I don't get out of bed and know exactly what's going to happen every single day.

Tell me about the 1 a.m. opening.

It was the first time we've ever done anything like that in Boise. We did have some experience; we did know that many people would be showing up. I think it's a real aggressive year for sales, and people are very anxious to take advantage of door-buster items or get in the store first to get first pick of the sale items. Nationally, I think it was a big year for that.

What were some of the issues you faced for the Black Friday opening?

[One issue] we faced here was just the main entrance. They were just very anxious to get inside. We had the Boise Police we had hired for this event. We had 20, plus Allied Security officers that we hired. So we knew the crowd size was going to be large. We knew that [parking might be an issue]. Luckily, we had these parking lots available on the side. We did have a bus service picking up from the local hotels and that adjacent parking lot. We let the first 500 people in ... at about 11 [p.m.] People were just very anxious to get inside. One person told me she'd been here since 7 a.m. on Thanksgiving day and, as you know, it was 20 degrees outside. That's a pretty long time to wait outside.

How do you respond to folks who see this as the commercialization of Christmas?

It is what it is. Christmas is a gift-giving time of year. It's one of the largest gift-giving times of year, and I think over time, it's grown in popularity—if that's even possible. I think that we've probably gone as a country from a culture of the old days of little women who were cutting their hair to give special heartfelt items ... [to where] we are a society where electronics and things like that are important to people. I think it's a personal choice what you care to give or how you plan to celebrate your holiday. We just try to open our doors and accommodate all sorts of people.

Would you try that 1 a.m. opening again?

I would imagine. It seems to be gaining popularity everywhere. [Reading] national reports, malls seem to be the leader this year in collecting the early morning dollar. Some of the publications I've read online said that malls seem to be capturing the majority of the audience this year better than the "big boxers" or the discount [stores].

Has shopping leveled off?

No. The crowds have been great. During the weekdays, it's certainly a little bit calmer to shop, but I know I was out this weekend driving around town, and there were crowds everywhere. I think it's going to be a good holiday season around here.

Have high gas prices or the reportedly weaker economy affected business?

Not yet; we haven't seen that. I don't know if they bought early and won't do as much late shopping, but we haven't experienced that yet, thank goodness. But I know that is a consideration for a lot of people. When your fixed expenses go up like that, you just don't have a lot of disposable income.

What are this year's "it" items?

Well, obviously, the Wii is a huge thing. I saw a sign up at EB Games that night we opened at 1 a.m. that said "We are out of Wii's" as of 1 a.m. I think people just bee-lined right up there to buy them. I've had a couple e-mails from people asking if they knew where I could get one. I guess they're sold out everywhere, countrywide. Apparently, it's an interactive game where kids are more physically active with it rather than just observing and playing with a controller. I kind of like that they're encouraging kids to get up and be active again.

What are some upcoming events before Christmas?

We are inviting the choir groups and singing groups to perform in the mall. We're just so darn limited for space here. That's my only issue. It's nice to stop and enjoy the music, but if you stop, you kind of block traffic. We did get all new Christmas decor where Santa is, and I've noticed that people are really enjoying that. We have a great new Santa this year; he's wonderful.

What do you want for Christmas?

I probably want something for my iPod, like an iHome or something that I can listen to it on other than just headphones.

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