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Last-Minute Shoppers Streaming To Stores As Gift Crunch Arrives

National Survey Finds 12 Percent Of Consumers Wait Until The Last Minute

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People shopping at Target
Brennan Linsley/AP Photo

People shopping for gifts Friday and Saturday are not alone. About 12 percent of consumers wait until the very last minute to buy presents for the Christmas holiday, according to the National Retail Federation.

Ana Serafin Smith, spokeswoman for the retail trade association, said most procrastinators have been shopping for gifts online. But, the slim shipping window means about 42 percent will be heading to department stores.

“For Dec. 23 and Dec. 24, we’re going to see a lot of folks in department stores, discount stores, electronics stores, as well as even grocery stores,” she said. “If you were planning on shopping any of those stores and you’ve already completed your holiday shopping, I would recommend to avoid them otherwise. You’re going to be stuck in very long lines.”

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Popular gifts among those surveyed this year include tickets to sporting events, adventure outings and, quite possibly a Wisconsin go-to gift – memberships for a cheese of the month club.

The day after Christmas a number of people will be looking to cash in that gift card or make exchanges at stores.

Serafin Smith said around 44 percent of consumers are planning to take advantage of sales online to avoid the crowd.

“And a little bit over 48 percent of consumers are going to be shopping in stores taking advantage of these really great promotions that retailers are going to have,” she said.

She said stores are expected to have anywhere from 50 to 70 percent discounts the day after Christmas as they look to clear out winter apparel and holiday decorations to prepare for spring.

NRF surveyed 6,890 people about their holiday shopping plans during the first week of December.

On Friday afternoon, a number of people in Superior were hustling in and out of the post office to send last-minute packages and cards. Resident Brian Lasko said gift-giving and receiving is his favorite part of the Christmas holiday.

“It’s just people that I don’t really stay in contact with much and then I start receiving stuff from them and hoping they got their stuff and it’s just a nice way to stay in touch,” he said.

Resident William Swenson said his favorite part of the holiday is getting together with family “and enjoying each other’s company and sharing both gifts and food.”

Leah Byrne of Duluth was on her way to the University of Minnesota-Duluth to pick up a jersey as a last-minute gift. She said her favorite thing about Christmas is also sharing time with family.

“I love getting together with everyone and seeing all of the kids when they get to open presents how excited they are,” Byrne said.

Chelsea Plafcan of Superior agreed.

“I think when you get older it’s more about the kids versus what the adults are doing,” Plafcan said. “Just seeing them excited about Christmas is the best part.”

While some may be still trying to find that perfect gift, Superior’s Bob Finstad said the holiday holds a different meaning to him.

“We’re supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ and salvation and it’s not about gifts and it’s not about the other things,” he said. “It’s about family and faith.”

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