Weather Iffy for Final Holiday Shopping Weekend

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

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By Dave Franzman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Holiday shoppers who waited until the final weekend to finish their Christmas list may find the weather working against them.

With ice greeting consumers in eastern Iowa Friday morning and heavy snow predicted to start Saturday evening and last through Sunday, the window of opportunity to finish buying gifts was fading. And retailers just hope shoppers don’t give up and stay home if the weather isn’t totally cooperative.

The National Retail Federal estimates the final two weeks of the Christmas season accounts for 30 percent of all holiday sales. And while the Black Friday after Thanksgiving gets all the attention, the real buying still takes place on the last weekend before Christmas.

Bill Horrigan, store manager at the southwest Cedar Rapids Theisen’s, said customers were snapping up snowmelt and other winter supplies Friday morning. But he hoped they would switch back to Christmas shopping after the ice melted a bit.

“Those items (winter supplies) kind of cover us now, but when it comes to Christmas shopping people are going to have to play the forecast and try and get out when they can,” Horrigan said.

Many retailers are more concerned than ever about winter disruptions because the calendar is helpful this year. 2013 has six fewer holiday shopping days because Thanksgiving was very late in November. The Thanksgiving to Christmas period has just four shopping weekends instead of the usual five.

Lee Larson, owner of Irwin’s Clothing in Marion, said the ice Friday did have a definite impact on the start of his weekend business. Few customers appeared in the morning and he took just a couple of phone orders while ice was still on the roads. But Larson said retailers have no control over the weather and just have to go with whatever Mother Nature provides.

“This is a big weekend and we’ve got big numbers to beat and days like this aren’t good. But hopefully we can make it up tomorrow (Saturday) and Monday and Tuesday I expect to be busy and it doesn’t make any difference if it’s cold or not people have got to get out. I’ve been in this business 35 years, and they’re always good days whether it’s snowing, winter nice or whatever,” Larson said.

Several retailers said while the weather may be iffy for the final weekend the calendar does help in one way. If shoppers haven’t finished, it’s almost too late now to order online and insure Christmas delivery without expensive shipping fees. So if there’s more buying to do, shoppers will have to physically go out and get it done somehow.

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