Where those odd gifts come from

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Andrew Lindsey, 4, of Overland Park, Kan., doesn't just like pandas, his mom says. He's obsessed.

So when he spied some furry slippers at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park this week, he put on the full sales job, quickly slipping off a boot to try on a slipper — adult size, of course.

Though Andrew failed to make a sale this time, his mom, Monica Lindsey — or perhaps Santa — might be back to the Pillow Pet Store soon.

Seasonal stores such as this one bring in stock not normally seen year-round at a time when consumers are most in search of the unusual in gifts and decor.

For the next few weeks, malls will offer such items as a small speaker that can be plugged into everything from cellphones to laptops for instant amplification, remote-control flying fish and sharks, blankets with dinosaur heads, nativity scenes made out of olive tree wood, glass hummingbirds and, of course for the New Year, calendars.

Retailers like the temporary stores because they can take advantage of the high-dollar and high-traffic holiday season without having to pay overhead all year. It also allows them a chance to test their idea, and the market itself, before signing a long-term lease.

One potential downside? The location is going to depend on mall vacancies.

Seasons has set up in Overland Park's Oak Park Mall for 20 years, for the last three in the higher-traffic and more visible main drag of the mall. This year, with few spots available, the store was lucky to get a spot by Nordstrom.

When it opened in October, it also sold some Halloween and Thanksgiving items. Now it's all about Christmas, expanding on its website offerings with more collectibles, along with more ornaments, which are displayed on about 30 trees.

"We even have a group of women who make the three-hour drive from Des Moines. We have customers who have something from us from when they were little who are now bringing in their children," said manager Michele Parrish.

The Overland Park Golf Division, owner of St. Andrews Golf Course and Overland Park Golf Club, has opened Santa's Golf Shop at Oak Park Mall. The shop sells clubs, bags, apparel, golf club covers and golf-themed gifts.

"It's a revenue stream during the offseason. When we are done, we will bring all the inventory back to the pro shops at the two golf courses," said Curt Nelson, general manager of the Overland Park Golf Division and a PGA master professional.

About Home, a home furnishings, decor and gift store in the Great Mall of the Great Plains in Olathe, Kan., is so new it is still unloading boxes. But many items are already on display from home decor to jewelry — University of Kansas aprons, Kansas City Chiefs hot pads, "Little Cowgirl" picture frames, "lures of the past" playing cards, metal signs and more.

Sugar Plums has put in a seasonal store in the Great Mall for four years. Holiday items are 50 percent off with other weekly specials (currently all snowmen are 60 percent off). Buy five ornaments and get the sixth one free — foxes, dogs with Santa hat and bone, cats with fiddles, policemen, doctors, graduates, Santa firemen and Santa in shorts on a treadmill, sparkly reindeer. There are penguin ornaments and stuffed penguins, and rows of angels. A life-size Santa with chaps and cowboy hats greets customers at the door.

It also has all-occasion greeting cards at half-price. After Christmas, there will be discounts on Christmas items as well as new Easter merchandise before the store closes in early 2012.

The Great Mall's Sportibles Outlet sells overstocks from the four area Sportibles stores at half off, including apparel, hats and novelties.

In downtown Kansas City, the Town Pavilion does its season a bit differently by holding a holiday mart at 1111 Main St., which it has done for a decade. Participating vendors will sell candles, Silpada jewelry, Avon beauty products and baked goods.

At Zona Rosa in Kansas City, seasonal stores include Pink Chandelier, a Parisian-flea-market-inspired shop selling antique and vintage home decor, furniture and fashion.

"It helps us get some different uses we don't have. Empty spaces are activated for the holidays, and we've been successful in incubating some tenants and rolling them to full time," said Rosemary Salerno, general manager of Zona Rosa. "They can dip their toes in and see what they think."

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