The Blythe resident had a mere two days before Christmas to complete her holiday shopping, so she drove to Mullins Crossing shopping center in Evans in hopes of scoring two toys at Learning Express – an indoor electronic baseball game and stacking cups – for her 12-year-old grandson. Her next stop was across the street at Academy Sports and Outdoors to buy for her husband.
Hoban almost missed out on the stacking cups. The front display was nearly depleted of the popular holiday item, but luckily for Hoban, there were more in the back.
Store Manager Pam Cox said the store had gradually grown busier the closer the calendar got to Christmas.
“It has gotten crazy like this in the past couple of weeks,” Cox said. “A lot of people just wait.”
Penny Forbes, of Grovetown, was among those at the speciality toy store in search of a few Christmas extras for her 2-year-old granddaughter. Forbes said that although she typically completes the bulk of her shopping well before Christmas Day, she likes to wait to buy a couple of presents in the days leading up to Dec. 25.
“My husband and I always leave a thing or two until the last minute, not anything that we have to have,” she said. “But we just kind of love the excitement, and it kind of gives you that (holiday) spirit.”
A National Retail Federation survey predicted that 10 percent of Americans would wait until Christmas Eve to wrap up their shopping. As of Dec. 9, the federation said, the average holiday shopper had completed half of his purchases but 14 percent hadn’t even started marking off their holiday shopping lists.
An abbreviated holiday season this year has caused Christmas to sneak up on shoppers, according to experts.
“Last-minute shoppers don’t have quite the breathing room they did last year when there were four full weekends, but we shouldn’t underestimate procrastinators,” said Pam Goodfellow, the consumer insights director for Proper Insights & Analytics, said in a release. “Last-minute shoppers are savvy bargain hunters who know just how to get everything they need to finish their gift lists.”
At the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Evans, Valerie Smith was happy to admit that she waits until the last minute before making her holiday purchases. The Grovetown resident said her busy work schedule makes it difficult to plan ahead for Christmas shopping.
Smith, who was accompanied by her niece, said she left her electronic and “surprise” gifts for Wala-Mart. She said she hoping to avoid the Augusta Mall, where she feared the crowds would be large, despite the wet weather.
“If they’ve got to get it, they’re going to get it,” Smith said of holiday shoppers. “It doesn’t matter. It could be storming right now.”
Though Smith had no qualms about Christmas Eve shopping, she said she’d like to finish buying for her mother and son Monday.
“I’m hoping that it’s a one-stop thing,” she said. “My goal is to get everything done today so I won’t have to do anything tomorrow.”
On the other side of the Savannah River, last-minute shopping also was in full swing.
“Without a doubt, these past few days have been crazy busy,” said Amber Saverance, a sales associate at Tea Garden Gifts in downtown Aiken.
Shopping began picking up at the store Dec. 20, right after Aiken County schools let students out for holiday break, she said.
Monogrammed cups, pens and stationery, and Thymes Frasier Fir candles were the store’s hot-ticket holiday products, said Saverance, adding that seasonal purchases made this year were on par with those of 2012.
“It is a make-or-break kind of thing,” she said of the impact the holiday season has on small businesses, “and we have definitely made it this year.”