With shoppers in stores, so is Santa


November 18, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

You don't have to wait for Santa anymore. He's in town, and he's brought along an entourage of photographers and, in some cases, a train crew.

Santas started popping up at area malls this month, and they will be coming like a stampede of reindeer in coming weeks. Of course, Santa is only one part of the elaborate Christmas efforts by malls to put people in the Christmas -- that is, buying -- mood.

The Santa, the mall decorations, the piped-in music and everything else that goes along can cost a mall anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000 and take up to a year to plan, according to Lisa Bisenius, marketing director for Eastpoint Mall at North Point Boulevard and Eastern Avenue.

"It promotes the mood and the atmosphere," she said. Regarding the cost, she said, her mall falls in the middle range.

Eastpoint's Santa turned up on Saturday, ready to give out a kaleidoscope to anybody who will sit on his lap and tell him what Mommy and Daddy should put on their credit card.

Santa also comes with a miniature train -- the Eastpoint Express -- that follows the well-worn tracks of other malls in the area.

The Rouse Co., the largest mall operator in the area, is bringing in its jolly elves a little later, with Santas arriving at the White Marsh and Harundale malls tomorrow, Harborplace on Saturday and at Mondawmin, the Mall in Columbia and Owings Mills the day after Thanksgiving.

Along with trains and other accessories, more Santas are sporting their own white whiskers and natural padding. Men with real white beards -- like the one at Eastpoint -- are the preferred candidates for the Santa seat and typically get double the pay of the ones sporting fake chin hairs, Ms. Bisenius said. It also helps if Santa is naturally rotund.

Instead of towing kids, give 'em to Nordstrom

Once they've seen Santa, where can the little darlings go while you try to do some serious shopping?

To help with that problem, the Nordstrom store at the Towson Town Center will provide a child-care service to customers during the Christmas shopping season.

"I'm a mother of two kids, and I know how it is to juggle kids and shop," said Tonya Young, manager of the high-end department store. "It makes shopping easier for them."

For $2 an hour -- less than the going rate for baby sitters -- parents can park their children in Nordstrom's child-care room, which will be under the direction of Children's Corner, a licensed day-care operation. Three adults -- one to register children, two others to keep them occupied -- will preside over games, arts and crafts and videotapes, Ms. Young said.

Parents will be given beepers to carry to let them know if they are needed by their children.

Thinking about leaving your children there for the weekend? No deal. The store is encouraging parents to pick up their children after an hour of shopping.

The service will start the day after Thanksgiving and run through that Sunday. The service will then be offered Thursday through Saturday during selected hours for the next two weekends. Then, from Dec. 16 through the day after Christmas, the room will be open every day, Ms. Young said.

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