"We have so many big events coming up here at Town Center Cobb for the holiday season," said Shelly Weidner, director of marketing and business development for SIMON Property Group, Town Center at Cobb. "Santa arrives Nov. 1 and he'll be here every day through Dec. 24 at the center court of the mall."
More than 20,000 mall patrons come to see Santa each year at Town Center at Cobb, Weidner said, making it one of the biggest Santa photo malls in the SIMON Property Group.
"We sell 50 percent of our annual SIMON American Express gift card sales in November and December," Weidner said. "Millions of shoppers come in in November and December; we estimate upwards of 3 million or more shoppers this holiday season."
Though SIMON doesn't release sales figures for its malls, Weidner said for each of the five holiday shopping seasons she has been with the mall, sales and traffic increased each year.
Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation expects sales in the months of November and December to marginally increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion, over 2012's actual 3.5 percent holiday season sales growth. The forecast is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales growth of 3.3 percent.
"Our forecast is a realistic look at where we are right now in this economy - balancing continued uncertainty in Washington and an economy that has been teetering on incremental growth for years," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. "Overall, retailers are optimistic for the 2013 holiday season, hoping political debates over government spending and the debt ceiling do not erase any economic progress we've already made."
According to the NRF, the holiday season can account for anywhere from 20 - 40 percent of a retailer's annual sales, and accounts for approximately 20 percent of total industry annual sales.
With a modest sales increase forecast for brick-and-mortar stores this year, a much larger increase in holiday sales is expected in online shopping, according to Shop.org, which expects online sales in November and December to grow between 13 - 15 percent over last holiday season to as much as $82 billion.
"Online and mobile continue to be a leading area of growth for retailers," said Shay. "In this economy, savvy, cost-conscious consumers go to the web to do their research and get the best bang for their buck."
While online sales may be booming, according to Town Center's Weidner, holiday shopping at the mall's 180 stores is about more than just finding the right gift at the right price.
"The mall offers a special experience for customers at the holidays," she said. "There's holiday entertainment, programming and decorations, and Santa. It's just the feel of Christmas and the holidays that you just don't get from ordering something on a computer."
Whether shopping online or at a retail location, this year shoppers will have one more option when it comes to Thanksgiving Day shopping. Macy's recently announced for the first time in its history, most stores would open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, including the Town Center at Cobb location.
According to data from the NRF, last year, 35 million people shopped in-store and online on Thanksgiving Day.
"Last year was our first year opening at midnight on Black Friday, and we saw huge, insane crowds, and I expect the same this year," Weidner said.