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Lights, Festival, Cash Registers

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Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. (CBS)

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Organizers of the 19th annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival expected about 1 million spectators to visit Michigan Avenue for the popular holiday event Saturday. While some came just for the parade, others made a day of it, which meant big business for merchants in the area.

Registers were ringing up a steady stream of customers in just about every store and shop along the Mag Mile. It was the sound every merchant wanted to hear.

The Greater North Michigan Avenue Association (GNMAA) says the event is a gift to businesses in the area. 

“For us, it’s like getting two Black Fridays in the Michigan Avenue district,” said John Chikow, president and CEO of GNMAA.

Chikow says many retailers won’t disclose how much they make during the Lights Festival. Judging by the number of bags people were carrying, sales were strong. And eager shoppers weren’t hard to find. 

Lori Ott and her friends were heading from shop to shop.

“Macy’s, Water Tower, any kind of shopping we can with clothes,” said Ott. 

Sarah Roy and her girlfriends like their annual holiday shopping trip to coincide with the Lights Festival.

They book rooms and make an entire day of it, and they’re not alone. 

Hotel occupancy averages between 95 and 98 percent on the night of the festival, according to GNMAA, and the business doesn’t stop there. 

“It spills over into restaurants, attractions. It’s just a tremendous economic shot in the arm for the district,” Chikow said.

The retailers’ organization expects Saturday’s sales to be about the same as last year’s.

As for the rest of the holiday season? They expect sales of luxury items and electronics to be very strong, and the rest of retail to post a modest gain.

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