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On Retail: Shopping season kicks into high gear throughout Madison area
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On Retail: Shopping season kicks into high gear throughout Madison area

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Holiday shopping

A mural by Madison author and illustrator Kevin Henkes helps bring Monroe Street into a festive mood. The holiday shopping season ramps up this week and will include Small Business Saturday, an event designed to encourage shoppers to visit local entrepreneurs and their shops.  

Christmas decorations have been on the shelves and racks at places like Menards, Target and Costco for weeks.

Toyland opened at Farm & Fleet stores Oct. 23 and some Christmas tree farms around the state opened Nov. 1.

But with Thanksgiving just days away that means the holiday shopping season is about to kick into high gear with a flurry of events designed to draw shoppers to downtowns, shopping districts and malls.

The events include tree lightings, visits with Santa Claus, music, food and refreshments and special sales.

Overall holiday spending is predicted to be up 5% over 2020 but with 62% of spending happening online, according to a survey by Deloitte of consumers and retail executives.

However, more people are expected to venture out into brick-and-mortar stores as health and safety anxiety related to COVID-19 decreases. The survey found that 40% of consumers are anxious about in-person shopping compared to 51% in 2020.

Holiday shopping

State Street will host a number of events this holiday season. Among them are Christmas trees promoting local nonprofits. The Madison Reading Project has this display that includes free children's books.

Shoppers may also be more active early in the season as 75% are concerned about inventory shortfalls, especially with electronics, accessories, toys and hobbies. But regardless of when they shop, 68% expect to feel the impacts of inflation, increased demand and shipping issues and are expecting to pay higher prices this season.

Of those surveyed, 67% expect the economy to improve or remain the same in 2022 while 78% have a similar or better household financial situation compared to 71% in 2020.

So, if you’re headed out, here are some of the places to consider.

Downtown Madison

Shine on Madison, a holiday light display, will be up through Jan. 7 while a holiday open house is scheduled Friday through Sunday.

The open house will include holiday activities and shopping specials from Downtown businesses and music at the top of State Street each day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is also continuing its “Art & Gift Fair: Weekends at MMoCA through Dec. 12.

Holiday shopping

The window of Anthology, 230 State St., highlights a number of Wisconsin-themed gift items.

The mini art fairs, fundraisers for the museum, take place in The Shop, MMoCA’s interactive contemporary art space that faces State Street. Each weekend features a diverse mix of 10 artists and makers. In addition to fine art painters, printmakers, photographers, jewelers and artists working in fiber, metal, wood and ceramics, the Weekends at MMoCA also showcase vendors offering body products, wearables and specialty foods. Admission is free.

Other Downtown happenings include the lighting of the Christmas tree in the Capitol rotunda on Dec. 3 and a series of Christmas concerts Dec. 3-5 at the Overture Center by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The concerts, which feature the Mount Zion Gospel Choir, Madison Youth Choirs, soprano Elizabeth Caballero and tenor Jared Esguerra, also include community sings in the lobby 50 minutes before each show.

Holiday shopping

Visitors leave the Overture Center, which will be home to concerts and plays this holiday season.

Shoppers looking for more unique items can check out the 25th annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival set from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 4 at Monona Terrace. All vendors are vetted to ensure their products are ethically and humanely produced, according to organizers.

And on Dec. 16, the final Madison Night Market is scheduled from 4-9 p.m. on State Street. The event will feature local businesses, pop-up shops, artisans, food stands and music.

Monroe Street

Carolers from the Madison Savoyards will sing the songs of the season along the street and Santa Claus will also make an appearance during the Holiday Glow on Monroe beginning at 4 p.m. on Dec. 3. There will be a book sale at the Monroe Street branch of the Madison Public Library while participating businesses will offer up refreshments, special activities and restaurants special “After Glow” drink and food specials.

Holiday shopping

A festive squirrel on the window of Mystery to Me bookstore greets shoppers along Monroe Street.

The business district, which is taking part on Saturday in the 12th annual Small Business Saturday, is also offering up Instagifts, instantly available gift cards redeemable at Monroe Street Merchants Association members. The cards never expire and can be emailed as gifts and redeemed using a mobile phone.


The Dickens Carolers will make regular appearances throughout the holiday shopping season in the plaza near Café Hollander.

Singing will take place from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 21; 5-7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 and 14; and 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and 21. Santa Claus will also be on hand for photos in the Holiday Hut during select times on Dec. 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 23.

East Towne and West Towne malls

Shopping on Thanksgiving Day or at 5 a.m. on Black Friday is no longer an option at Madison’s two largest shopping malls.

Holiday shopping

The North Pole at West Towne Mall is ready to host Santa Claus. He is scheduled to appear beginning Dec. 2.

Both East Towne and West Towne Malls will be closed on Thanksgiving and won’t open until 7 a.m. on Friday. However, Dick’s Sporting Goods and JC Penney will open at 5 a.m. Santa Claus will take up his post in the center courts of both malls from Dec. 2 to Dec. 24.


Middleton Outreach Ministry will hold its annual Holiday Art Fair on Dec. 4 and 5 at Food Concepts Inc., 2551 Parmenter St. The event will feature approximately 60 local artists and vendors who will contribute a minimum of 20% of their sales to MOM. Also available will be MOM Gifts of Hope. Purchasers receive a card to give to their gift recipient explaining that a donation was made in their honor as well as a free 2021 MOM ornament for purchases of $25 or more.

In Stoughton, the annual Victorian Holiday Weekend, Dec. 4-6, includes a light show in Stoughton Rotary Park; A Christmas Story, a musical presented by the Stoughton Center for the Arts; and a cookie walk on Dec. 5 from 8 a.m. to noon at the United Methodist Church, 525 Lincoln Ave., with proceeds benefiting the church’s food pantry. Also on that day will be a Victorian Holiday Artisan Market from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Chorus Public House, 154 W. Main Street. The event will feature hand-crafted items from local artisans, gift wrapping provided by a local Girl Scouts troop and a giving tree to benefit local families.

Holiday shopping

A sandwich board at Hive, a clothing store along Monroe Street, encourages local shopping this holiday season. The store opened in 2017 and is one of several locally owned businesses in the popular shopping district.

On Dec. 2, the downtown shopping district in Sun Prairie will play host to Ladies Night Out, an event that features shopping, giveaways, in-store specials, entertainment, drink and food specials. The first 300 shoppers in line at 5 p.m. at the Bank of Sun Prairie will receive a Bank of Sun Prairie giveaway bag with gifts from select downtown businesses.

Big crowds are also expected to descend on downtown Sun Prairie on Dec. 4 at 5:30 p.m. for the 106th annual Fire and Lights Holiday Parade followed by the tree lighting in front of the Sun Prairie Historical Library & Museum. Area fire departments will bring their trucks to the city decorated for the holiday season and after the parade will be parked side by side in two lanes at the intersection of Main and Church streets.

In Mount Horeb, a series of events designed to bring people to the village’s downtown shopping district are planned.

On Fridays in December, businesses will be open until 7 p.m.

On Dec. 3, the Jingle Jangle Holiday Market is set from 4-8 p.m. at the District #1 Old School House while the Holidaze Art Spree is set from Dec. 3 to Dec. 5 as a way to highlight local artists and their work. On Dec. 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Santa Claus will be at the Mount Horeb Public Library while Jorgen the Troll will be wandering Main Street to take selfies with shoppers.

In Waunakee, the downtown kicks off the holiday season on Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. with dining, shopping and activities at local businesses. The historic train depot will host a model train display and Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive at the Main Street roundabout at 6:30pm.

And in Oregon, a tree lighting and caroling with Santa is set from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Triangle Waterman Park in the village’s downtown.

Send retail-related tips and story ideas to or call Barry Adams at 608-252-6148.


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