Last-minute shoppers hit the stores

December 24, 2011 6:30:32 AM PST
Time is running out to make purchases before the Christmas holiday festivities begin on Saturday.

The rush was on Friday as procrastinating shoppers tried to scoop up last-minute holiday deals from the city to the suburbs. As anxiety grew to get it all done, so did the crowds. As of about 10 p.m. Friday night, the parking lot at Macy's Oak Brook was still packed.

"We were so busy up before the holidays up until now that we took two days of vacation to get all our shopping done," said Michael Washinushi.

"I thought it was going to be snowy, but that's OK, I'll take this - it's a wonderful night and the sales are great out here, mind you," said shopper Sandra McCoy.

In the days just before Christmas, retailers are hoping shoppers keep spending. But unlike last year, many department stores aren't necessarily ignoring their bottom line to do it.

"We're really excited about the fact that we're open 24 hours. We have an 83-hour marathon going on right now," said Kim Groth, Macy's Oak Brook.

So far, sales from November through this weekend rose 2.5 percent compared with the same period a year ago. It is estimated that 24 million Americans will not finish their Christmas shopping until Saturday.

"It's beautiful. People are out here shopping. It looks festive, like they're eager for tomorrow," said shopper Jesus Schmidt.

Although some analysts predicted buyers would shop less, Bill Martin of the research firm Shoppertrak says the season will be still very green for retailers.

"They saw good sales on Black Friday and we see a nice run up in traffic as we roll into the holiday season," said Martin.

Traditional retailers are even benefiting from the surge in online shoppers who already spent almost $32 billion this season - a 15-percent increase over last year.

"I know exactly where I am going. I did all my stuff online. I know exactly where I have to go, get my stuff and get out. Hit 'em quick," said Joe Lukaszek.

While many plan to spend this weekend desperately seeking holiday gifts, for others it's still about the spirit of the season.

"Pretty excited, and we're just about done with our shopping, so we'll relax for the next couple of days, and enjoy some good food and company and [it'll] be a great time," said shopper Larry Grela.

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