Central Florida malls and stores are gearing up for this weekend's NBA All-Star Game, eager to capitalize on fans with big bucks in their pockets.
Florida Mall will hold four days of events, including a Saturday appearance by New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin.
Bracing for an onslaught of shoppers, Mall at Millenia plans to make employees park at a nearby office building this weekend to make room for visitors' cars.
"They're telling us to plan like it's Black Friday busy, which is really exciting," Bill Harmening, who plans to nearly double the staff at his Pinkberry yogurt shop at Millenia, said Tuesday.
About 50,000 people are expected in town for the All-Star Game and related events. With tickets starting at $500, the game is attracting plenty of the rich and famous.
So Mall at Millenia, which has a wing of luxury stores, including Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch and Jimmy Choo, expects an especially big crowd of shoppers.
Millenia has arranged shuttles to bring employees from a nearby office building where they will park. It also has worked with local law enforcement on an "extensive plan" for security and handling traffic, said Brenda Lounsberry, Millenia's marketing director.
"We expect it to be very congested," she said.
Florida Mall is banking on star power to lure fans starting Thursday. Basketball courts are being set up inside and out. Fans can play, win gift cards and meet players including Lin, who will appear from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Orlando Premium Outlets centers say they too expect more traffic, especially in athletic stores.
There won't be much going on at Orlando Fashion Square, other than a DJ at its Jimmy Jazz store Friday and Saturday. But its Team Sports USA store expects more traffic and has stocked NBA All-Star-themed T-shirts, selling at anywhere from $21.99 to $34.99.
"We're stocking up just like we did for the Super Bowl," employee Ariel Perez said.
The NBA is urging fans to refrain from buying All-Star merchandise from street vendors and flea markets to avoid counterfeit items. Instead, it recommends shopping through outlets such as NBA All-Star Jam Session at the Orange County Convention Center, which requires a ticket; well-known national sporting-goods chains or NBAStore.com.
The league said it is working closely with federal and state law officers who will keep an eye out for people trying to make a buck on jerseys, hats or other items that don't have official NBA approval.
There's not much basketball-themed merchandise on Winter Park's Park Avenue, and many merchants there aren't preparing for big crowds.
Craig DeLongy said he might get "a little bump" in business at his John Craig and Current menswear stores on Park Avenue. He expects more visitors at his John Craig boutique at the J.W. Marriott Grand Lakes Hotel in south Orange.
There, an extra salesperson will work during the weekend, and some extra clothing has been set out.
At Tuni, manager Jess Cearley said "we're crossing our fingers" and hoping for celebrity sightings, which happen occasionally in the tony Winter Park shopping district.
Don Sexton, who owns the Downeast Orvis store, can't wait. He expects to benefit from sightseers visiting Winter Park and Celebration, where he also has a shop.
"I think it's going to be sensational for all of Central Florida," he said.
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