Holiday Gimmicks to Lure Shoppers

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By Ashley M. Heher, AP Retail Writer

As you rush into the holiday shopping season, you may catch a whiff of cookies baking at the mall or find a note from a roving elf on your iPhone or get a coupon by text message.

Across the nation, retailers and mall owners are trying to spark the holiday spirit with longer hours, more live music, twittering elves and even fresh-baked cookies.

Simon Property Group, the nation's largest mall owner, plans to give away more than 2 million bite-size chocolate chip cookies this season in partnership with Nestle's Tollhouse brand.

Cathi Weiner, a senior vice president at Simon Brand Ventures, calls it retail aromatherapy.

"I can't think of anything that can fit into it more — warm cookies in the mall and that type of comfort food feel," she said.

Shoppers will be able to snag several morsels at a time, along with a Nestle coupon during the promotion, which starts Black Friday, Nov. 27, at 100 locations and runs each weekend through Christmas. But it's strictly BYOM: bring your own milk.

Taubman Centers, with 24 malls nationwide, plans to focus on store employees by delivering breakfast to thousands of workers the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday and traditionally seen as the launch date for the holiday shopping season.

The mall management company also plans to treat store employees to midday massages.

"We wanted our retailers to be at their peak performance," said Taubman spokeswoman Karen MacDonald.

Shoppers also will get free breakfast at Taubman malls in Los Angeles, Miami, Dearborn, Mich., and Wellington, Fla., while others will offer free parking.

Copyright The Associated Press 2009.

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