Online vendors can expect happy holidays this year. Even before gas prices started dropping, experts and consumers alike were predicting that 2006 would be another strong online holiday shopping season. One difference this year: sales growth from experienced online buyers who increase their spending rather than newcomers clicking “buy it now” for the first time.
E-marketer’s “Online Holiday Shopping Preview” forecasts that internet merchants will ring up sales worth $24.3 billion during the 2006 holiday season, a respectable 22.1% growth over last year, and a huge jump from the “only” $10.6 billion in 2002.
Additionally, the National Retail Federation predicts that sales for gift cards will total $24.81 billion this holiday season, a $6 billion increase over 2005 when gift card sales hit $18.48 billion. NRF President and CEO, Tracy Mullin, says, “Consumers love gift cards because they take the guessing out of holiday shopping and retailers love them because they are easy to stock and take up minimum shelf space.”
With the December holidays quickly approaching, it’s a great time to add some pizzazz to your dining room. Replacing a dated, shiny brass chandelier will provide instant impact – and create a favorable impression later when you resell your home. If the fixture isn’t connected to a dimmer switch, consider installing one. For as little as $6, you can have a wide range of different atmospheres at your fingertips.
While you’re looking up, you may want to jazz up the ceiling… by adding a medallion at the base of the chandelier, wallpapering the whole ceiling or applying some faux paint or a wallpaper border to a vertical step in the ceiling. If your home has a nostalgic flavor, you might consider Armstrong’s decorative ceiling tiles that look like antique tin ceilings. Once painted gold or copper, they look like the real thing – without the pour acoustics. A chair rail can add charm to a simple dining room. Chair rails are usually 32 inches from the floor and stained or painted the same color as the room’s woodwork. For added impact, paint the area under the chair rail a slightly darker shade than the upper portion of the walls or hang a coordinated wallpaper either above or below. Or, you may want to add bead board or use molding to create the look of panels under the rail.
There’s a chill in the air these days and snow in some parts of the country. So it’s certainly not too early to be thinking about fireplaces.
“Outdoor fireplaces are being used to expand a home’s living space,” Vince Bossany, public relations manager, Hearth & Home Technologies in Lakeville, Minnesota says, “because they can add a month to spring or fall. Of course, in warmer climates outdoor living spaces are a year-round extension of the home at less cost per square foot.”
See-through fireplaces are growing in popularity because they serve two rooms at once. “We’ve done a bedroom/bath shared fireplace,” says architect Bruce Lyon, from San Ramon, California. “It added comfort and a cozy feeling to both spaces.”
Terry Stork, an Omaha, Nebraska, real estate agent who specializes in new home construction, agrees. “In the past, two-sided fireplaces were often very plain units on the edge of a wall. But the folks who are using them today generally include full face mantles on both sides. In fact, they often create two very different treatments. On the great room side, the fireplace may have neutral tile and a very traditional white surround. On the kitchen side, it may have the same granite used on the countertops and a wood stained mantle and surround.”
A twist on the see-through model is the indoor/outdoor model. It is a cost-effective option for your deck or patio and adjacent indoor living area. Heat & Glo’s Twilight ™ II is a popular two-sided fireplace that requires no additional venting and meets both gas fireplace and window standards. Homeowners can select separate surrounds for the inside and the outside, tailoring them to match each space’s décor.