Orange County shoppers have choices this year when it comes to ice skating on Black Friday, the official start to the Christmas shopping season.
The District at Tustin Legacy will add an ice skating rink to its shopping center this year with the vendor who provided it at the Irvine Spectrum picking up stakes and moving to Tustin.
Irvine Spectrum shoppers, however, need not worry. The Irvine Co. has a new vendor operating an even bigger skating rink.
"We still have our ice rink, but it's slightly bigger than last year,'' said Blake Windal, general manager of Irvine Spectrum. "The only real change for us is we no longer have a canopy so it's truly skating under the stars."
Shoppers can lace up and hit the ice through Jan. 7. Black Friday shopping will begin at midnight with free skating and valet parking, Windal said.
Another new feature at the shopping center are themed Thursdays. Next week on Nov. 30 the theme will be "Crazy Christmas Hats," and shoppers wearing festive head wear have a chance at winning gift cards.
Shoppers also will be surprised as "janitors" will break out in song, using brooms and trash cans for their music, Windal said.
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If children become a little bored waiting in line for the shopping center's train or carousel parents can select a story from a vending machine to read.
The rink at The District at Tustin Legacy is larger than the one previously used at the Irvine Spectrum, according to Lenny Davis of Newport Beach-based Ice Cold Entertainment, who operated the rink at the Irvine Spectrum and will be operating the rink at The District at Tustin Legacy.
Over the past 14 years, Davis has heard amazing stories about ice rink proposals and other milestones.
"We have a story of a girl who couldn't walk, but skating gave her the ability to walk again,'' Davis said. ``Now, for the past 10 years, she comes to our rink every year. They wish they had the ice last week they're so excited."
Ice skating is just one amenity retailers are looking to beyond deep discounts to lure shoppers, who may shell out even more than last year.
Chapman University economics professor Raymond Sfeir predicts spending could be 4 percent better than last year, which was 3.6 percent better than 2015.
The consumer confidence index "is at its highest rate in 17 years,'' Sfeir said.
With incomes rising and the unemployment rate in Orange County dropping so low that it qualifies as full employment, shoppers will be in a generous mood, Sfeir said.
The employment rate locally is so high that the county "imports'' much of its workforce from the Inland Empire, Sfeir said.
"People seem much more optimistic than in the past,'' Sfeir said.
"They're really in a good mood and that's been known to spur people to spend more."
Shoppers can expect retailers competing to outdo each other for discounts throughout the holiday season, Sfeir said.
"When one or two does something major everybody else has to do the same thing,'' Sfeir said.
Some retailers have already kicked off holiday shopping, Sfeir said.
"Every year it looks like it comes a little bit earlier," Sfeir said.
"They're starting before even Thanksgiving with the Christmas music now. It's crazy."