Juneau’s Imagination Station owner Alicia Smith highlights one of their best-selling items at the store this holiday, a robotic hedgehog. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s Imagination Station owner Alicia Smith highlights one of their best-selling items at the store this holiday, a robotic hedgehog. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Holiday helpers share top picks

Ho! Ho! Ho!

The average Alaskan household is expected to spend $1,920.92 each this holiday season — making Alaska one of the top 10 states for holiday budgets, according to the Chamber of Commerce,

The Chamber of Commerce, a national organization that seeks to serve as the “go-to digital resource for small business owners and enterprising entrepreneurs,” expects shoppers to spend 65% of their budget on gifts, 23% on food and decor and 12% on ancillary purchases.

How are shoppers doing their holiday season spending in the capital city? The Empire asked local businesses what products have been their top-sellers.

At Foodland Ace Hardware, employee John Joeright said that decorations are selling briskly and that all the trees larger than 7 feet have been sold.

“Large trees sold out fast and we can’t get anymore. They are out of stock and we heard that would be the case way before Thanksgiving,” Joeright said in a Friday phone interview. “The smaller trees are selling well, too. We’ve sold a lot of 4-foot trees.”

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire 
The Ben Franklin Store downtown has a wide variety of gifts for late-game holiday shoppers, including a wide collection of remote-controlled models and other stocking stuffers.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire The Ben Franklin Store downtown has a wide variety of gifts for late-game holiday shoppers, including a wide collection of remote-controlled models and other stocking stuffers.

He said that holiday lights are popular, and he expects all seasonal lights to be gone before the end of the year.

Joeright said that he sees “really good deals” on toolsets and grills for those looking for last-minute gifts.

“So many grills,” he said, noting that several of the grills have special offers available with lower prices or accessory kits included or offered for a lower price.

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He said the store is featuring new items, like pizza ovens for the first time, and that interest is substantial.

Stephanie Kreuzenstein, assistant buyer and floor manager at Nugget Alaskan Outfitter, said that Skhoop Down Skirts have been a popular item this season. She said a new shipment had just arrived, so it’s not too late to grab one.

Kreuzenstein said that puffy coats, microspikes, and hoodies are all selling well. She said smaller items like Tipsy coasters, bamboo sporks and Hydrascape Infinity Stickers are popular stocking stuffers this year.

John Weedman, manager at Western Auto Marine, said that outdoor clothing items have been popular along with other items to make winter easier or more fun, such as Ice Melter and sleds — both of which are currently out of stock.

“We have a bunch of gadgets, stocking stuffers and toys that are doing well,” Weedman said, noting that his team is working hard to get newly arrived items out on the floor. He noted that last-minute shoppers will find several unique items that are “giftable” near the front of the store.

Welcome to Toyland

Local toy sellers report strong sales, especially for games, puzzles, and other indoor toys.

Alicia Smith, owner and self-appointed toy diva at Juneau’s Imagination Station, said that several items have been popular this year — including Lego sets, games and dolls.

Alaska Robotics Gallery co-owner Aaron Suring gestures at Sushi Go!, one of a number of games locally obtainable and ideal for gifting this holiday season. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Alaska Robotics Gallery co-owner Aaron Suring gestures at Sushi Go!, one of a number of games locally obtainable and ideal for gifting this holiday season. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

“Our stock is really good,” she said. “We are pretty well stocked as long as you aren’t too specific with what you want.”

Smith said Lego sets featuring the Star Wars The Child theme are still in stock and selling well. Other popular, in-stock items include The Pop Fidgety Game, the My Robotic Pet Tumbling Hedgehog and the Baby Stella doll, which is machine washable and includes a magnetic pacifier.

Smith said board games have been popular this year. She said Ticket to Ride continues to be a top seller and the Rainbow Unicorn Rescue board game is a top choice among customers.

Aaron Suring, co-owner of Alaska Robotics Gallery, said that board games have been a big seller there, as well.

“I think it’s been a trend since the pandemic, especially two-player games,” Suring said. “I wouldn’t say there’s one, in particular, that’s been flying off the shelf. I think people are looking for something new and interesting.”

Brenda Weaver, owner of Hearthside Books and Toys, holds up the most recent book by Heather Lende, recently chosen as the Alaska State Writer Lauereate. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Brenda Weaver, owner of Hearthside Books and Toys, holds up the most recent book by Heather Lende, recently chosen as the Alaska State Writer Lauereate. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

He said Catan, Carcassonne, and Sushi Go! are all popular games this season.

Mike Wiley, owner of Ben Franklin Store downtown, said that radio-controlled boats, cars, planes and trucks have sold briskly this season–especially at lower price points.

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“Any lower-end RC stuff–anything under about $100 has been a struggle,” Wiley said. “And there’s no more in the pipeline. It’s just what we have in stock.”

At Hearthside Books and Toys, owner Brenda Weaver said they are focused on local creators.

“We have brought in some fairly local artists. One of our bestsellers that surprised us was a lot of devil’s club and spruce soaps and salves. We sold out and had to restock twice.”

She said the store is finding luck with locally made headbands, perennially popular Mark Kelley calendars and books by Haines-based author and current Alaska State Writer Laureate Heather Lende.

“She’s always popular,” Weaver said. “She’s a fabulous person.”

Western Auto Marine manager John Weedman gestures at a selection of locally carved wooden toys available for shoppers at the store. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Western Auto Marine manager John Weedman gestures at a selection of locally carved wooden toys available for shoppers at the store. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Weaver also pointed to games as a top-seller.

“We have these little fun mini-boxes of mini-games. It might be like a Star Trek communicator or a Harry Potter wand. Those are a blast. Those and marble sets. People love playing with Marbles,” she said.

The gift of good taste

Local gourmet businesses also report brisk business–both mail order and in person.

“People really love our food boxes,” said Midgi Moore, Juneau Food Tours’ CEO. “We can appeal to sweet or savory. Over half the stuff is in our store from Juneau. Everybody loves food.”

Moore said that she’s been pleasantly surprised by the amount of foot traffic she’s seen at her downtown shop.

“Our do-it-yourself box is popular. The feedback I’m getting is that people are happy that it’s all Alaskan,” she said, noting that shoppers can select items to put into a box for local delivery or to be sent to friends and family who live outside Juneau.

She said Spruce Tip Jelly from Barnacle Foods is her top-selling Christmas item and that holiday boxes all include a bell from North Pole, Alaska, “so it sounds like Christmas.”

“We are still shipping until Dec. 22,” she said, adding that her shop is open on weekends, including Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Lia Heifetz, one of the owners of Barnacle Foods, said that mail orders have been brisk. She said locals can also pick up orders at a warehouse in Juneau.

Heifetz said premade gift boxes, including product bundles and a recipe card are top picks for consumers this holiday season.

She said top-selling boxes include the Kelpy Bloody Mary Gift Box, the Sweet & Salty Gift Box and the Best of Barnacle Gift Box.

On the flip side

If your shopping list includes people who have demonstrated less-than-stellar behavior throughout the year, the traditional lump of coal will be tough to get locally. But, if you can find it, it is a surprisingly affordable option.

According to the Energy Information Agency, part of the Department of Energy, one ton of Central Appalachian coal, which can produce up to 12,500 British thermal units worth of heat, has a commodity market price of $92.50, making it not only a useful mechanism for administering a lesson, but just a fraction of what the average Alaskan is expected to spend this holiday season.

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891. Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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