As the blockbusters stream out of Hollywood for the holidays, stars hit the talk shows and junkets to “see and be seen.”
For those less interested in Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame” than local stores’ “Lines of Eternity,” here’s a gift-buying tip: recreational athletes are also hoping to see and be seen this year.
Dreaming of a light Christmas
“Reflectivity is really big right now,” said Brian White, co-owner of Fleet Feet Carrboro and now the newly-opened Fleet Feet in the Renaissance Center near Southpoint Mall in Durham. “People have been flocking in for anything that’s bright, from blinky-lights to LED products that are super bright. We have a whole reflectivity section now. There are so many options for those wanting to be seen.”
Even the cold-weather fashion takes its cue from day-glo hues.
“We’ve got Nike’s Zip Element (jacket), and we’re down to our last couple already,” said Nick Stump, assistant store manager at Omega Sports in the New Hope Shopping Center in Durham. “Colors, especially neon colors, are in. Bright yellow, orange: anything that helps you to be seen at night.”
John Bigelow, store manager at Performance Bicycle in Chapel Hill’s Eastgate Shopping Center agreed.
“Lights (are selling), because this is a big bike commuter town,” he said.
Snug as a bug
Even those more interested in mere function than fashion can dress to impress with Fleet Feet’s colorful compression products.
“There are so many colors now for both socks and arm sleeves,” White said. We carry CP products, and the socks that run around $60 come in blue, white, black, green. …”
Chad Pickens, manager of Eastgate’s Great Outdoor Provisions Center, said SmartWool socks and accessories ($21-$85) were popular gift ideas and added that customers were making sharp choices this season.
“We have precision Benchmade knives ranging from $100 up to $165, and they’re spectacular,” he said. “They’re great for a collector or someone who intends on holding on to them for a long time.” Pickens said Gränsfors Bruk wildlife hatchets ($111) were also popular.
Games People Play
Chris Jones, manager of Play It Again Sports in the Indigo Corners Shopping Center off New Hope Commons Drive in Durham, said table games would begin filling the store this week.
“We’ll start putting out our foosball, ping-pong, air hockey and billiards tables out,” he said. “Plus, we sell so many of the cornhole games ($134.99 for two boards and 8 regulation bags).”
Play it Again Sports also boasts a vast selection of disk golf supplies.
“Disk golf has just blown up,” Jones said. “There are at least three or four new companies out there … and there are a lot of local courses.
For those preferring the real links to the disk courses, TaylorMade clubs at Golf Galaxy in New Hope Commons are going the distance.
“The big new thing from TaylorMade is the speed pocket (behind the club face) which increases ball speed and distance,” said Golf Galaxy’s Brent McCoy. “It adds extra spring for hotter ball speeds, and now it’s internal on newest line from TaylorMade: the SLDR ($250 for fairway woods; $400 for drivers).”
For those merely looking to get into the swing of golf, Golf Galaxy lesson packages are popular gift ideas.
“We have a three-lesson package right now for $99.99,” McCoy said, “and we have an in-store hitting net with video … so we can slow down and analyze your swing.”
“Everything right now is matching golf ball compression to your swing speed,” McCoy added.
“We can look at your swing and fit it to a golf ball. Plus, we have these (Sky Caddie) watches now. They run from $180 up to $350 for a touchscreen watch.”
“The big things for runners now are Yurbuds: earbuds that don’t slip out of your ears,” Fleet Feet’s White said.
“You can wear them for extended periods without any discomfort. The basic ones run $30.”
Flexing those muscles
Play it Again’s Jones said exercise equipment and products for function fitness and cross-fit were popular.
“We’re also the only store around that carries a full spectrum of kettle bells,” he added, “and they’re huge, along with dumbbells and weights in general. We have a ton of used weights, too.”
“What have been really good are our injury management massage tools,” Fleet Feet’s White said. “There’s a new one called Addaday. They’ve been just flying off the shelves. Our Ultra Roller retails for $40.”
Short of a Red Ryder BB gun, perhaps nothing speaks to childhood Christmas like a bicycle, however.
“This is a huge season for kids’ bikes,” said Bigelow of Performance Bicycle. Kids’ first bikes and upgrades are discounted, and the store offers a hide-a-bike option.
“We’ll keep it here,” he said, “and you can pick it up on Christmas Eve … so that way you’re not looking for a month’s worth of hiding spots.”
Stuff that Stocking
Finally, here a few affordable items with which to add a finishing touch to gift buying.
“We have these (woven) pocket disks; they’re made locally,” Play it Again’s Jones said. “They started as a UNC graduate school project, and they’re made in Guatemala, fair trade.”
The hand-woven disks sell for $9.99 and $16.99 for a small and large disk, respectively, and they’re also available at Great Outdoor Provisions.
“We have a New Balance Safety Light for $14.99,” Omega’s Nick Stump said. “Plus, all of our nutritional stuff is perfect for stockings.”
White agreed, noting that, like running apparel, sports nutrition products have gone mainstream now.
“You see people wearing compression apparel to the grocery store now,” he said, “and people are looking at our nutrition items not just for long runs.
“Some just want our nutrition items for something to eat on the fly. ...” White said a salt-caramel-flavored GU energy gel is flying off the shelves.
“I like our Skully/Ninja LED lights,” Performance Bicycle’s Bigelow said. “They attach to your seat post or handlebars or the laces of your shoe. They’re $14.99, and they’re extremely bright.”
“We carry a Nebo Larry Light II, which is a laser and LED flashlight combo with a magnet on the back for just $17,” he said.
“Oh, and they also provide hours of entertainment for your cat.”
On a light note
While it’s difficult to say whether the present cold weather snap will promise a white Christmas, here’s to an illuminating holiday season, “and may all your Christmases are bright.”