Christmas Shopping Down to Final Hours

By Forrest Saunders, Reporter

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By Forrest Saunders

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Tuesday, last-minute shoppers were loading gifts into the back of their cars by the cartload.

If you were one of those procrastinating purchasers, don't feel bad. Experts estimate in years past up to 24 million Americans waited until Christmas Eve to buy gifts.

"I'm just really busy at work this month," said shopper, Monica Skogman.

"Bought myself my own Christmas present, a new car, so I'm kind of backed up on buying the other presents," said another shopper, Sarah Williams.

Retailers certainly didn’t mind the Christmas Eve shopping frenzy. In fact, they were encouraging it more than ever this year. Thirty-seven store chains had extended hours until 6 p.m. Discounts were big too, an estimated 13% higher than last year.

To some shoppers, this season seemed as big as any other.

"I think it was about the same as last year. I always wait to the last minute," said Skogman.

However, according to ShopperTrak, in-store retail sales were actually down 3.1% last week and foot traffic was down 21% versus last year.

Can the final hours before Santa's arrival make up the difference? Experts said it's not likely. Instead, they expect stores will rely more on the week following Christmas, which can account for up to 15% of holiday season sales.

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