Some of the biggest sellers at Yankee Candle have actually become year-round favorites., VALLEY DISPATCH/GAYLE SIMONE

BY GAYLE SIMONE, Valley Dispatch Staff

They have drafted homemade maps of the stores. They have a game plan. They set their alarms for midnight, get their coffee and lounge chairs, then wait for hours for the doors to open.

They are early bird shoppers and they are waiting outside the stores as early as 3 a.m., even though the stores may not open until 5 a.m. or later.

Julie Kitsos, the store manager of KB Toys, said that is an advantage of shopping at the Loop.

“The mall (at Rockingham Park) itself is closed and locked,” Kitsos said. “At the Loop, customers can park their cars in front of the stores and wait.”

Kitsos said on top of that list are game systems that were just recently released in time for Christmas this year.

“The Sony hand held PSP (PlayStation Portable), the Nintendo DS (dual screen); those are the systems everyone is looking for,” Kitsos said. “There’s also a doll out — the Amazing Amanda. That’s the hot doll. There’s always one doll.”

Furbies are back, too, this time in the form of an interactive animatronic music maker.

“They connect to your iPod,” Kitsos explained. “You can make them move to the beat of your iPod.”

Gina Votour, Yankee Candle store manager, said the outside experience is what makes the Loop stand out.

“It’s better than being at the mall,” Votour said. “You can see everything from your car and know where you want to go.”

“They are our biggest sellers,” Votour said. “But, Holiday Bayberry and Mistletoe have really picked up this year — and not just in candles but in potpourri, also.”

Votour added that their limited-edition candles, Jack Frost and White Chocolate Mint, are also hot this year.

For the athletic type or sports fan on your list, George Mitchell Jr., store manager of Olympia Sports, said Red Sox and Patriots merchandise are always the hot sellers during the holiday season.

“No matter how many championships the other teams win, this will always be a Red Sox town,” Mitchell Jr. said. “But the Patriots are still up there with them, especially with the resurgence of the Patriots; getting back (Richard) Seymour and Tedy Bruschi, I think a lot of people will be leaning more toward buying Patriots merchandise.”

“It’s amazing the kids always know when the new Jordan’s are coming out,” Mitchell Jr. said. “They know two weeks in advance that they are coming out.”

Although, he tried them and found he can’t wear them, Mitchell Jr. said the “heelys” (the sneakers with the wheels in the heels) are always a big seller with the younger kids.

“The kids love them, they absolutely love this shoe,” Mitchell Jr. said. “We always have people in the store looking for these shoes.”

Mitchell Jr. also boasts about Olympia Sports’ “Get it” program.

“Say you want a medium Bruschi shirt and we don’t have it,” Mitchell Jr. explains. “We’ll find and send it to your house. It’s great.”

Mitchell Jr. said that the shipping takes seven to 10 days, and all products ordered by Dec. 12 are guaranteed to be there for Christmas.

So make it a point to make a holiday-shopping stop at the Loop, whether to go to KB Toys at 5 a.m. to get the “Amazing Amanda” doll, or at Olympia Sports getting a Tedy Bruschi jersey for the Patriots fanatic on your Christmas list, or at Yankee Candle trying to decipher which scent your new girlfriend’s mother would like; or off to Borders to pick up a CD or book; or at Old Navy and Gap for holiday sweaters, or finally stopping at one of the restaurants to replenish yourself from all that walking from store to store.

Not to mention you can cap off the evening with a movie at Loews Theater. The Loop has something for everyone during the holiday shopping season.

“We’re easy to access; we have some items here for everyone,” Gayle Nigro, general manager of the Loop said. “It’s fresh air and sunshine. It truly is an easy, fun filled convenient way to shop.”