Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers Bring Retailers Christmas Cheer

Procrastination is paying off. As Christmas continues to creep up on consumers, last-minute shopping is currently in full effect and will carry on up until Christmas Eve.

According to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, 53 percent of consumers — about 126 million people — plan to shop this weekend, the last Saturday before Christmas.

“Even though many consumers got a head start with holiday shopping early in the season, millions more are leaving their gift buying to the last minute and beyond,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Stores will be packed the next few days as consumers rush to complete their shopping, and anybody ordering online at this point should probably choose in-store pickup as their delivery option.”

And while this may be a stressful time for the delayed shoppers, it’s a major benefit to brick-and-mortar retailers.

“Gaining another weekend is an absolute win,” said Daniel Kahalani, owner of DNA Footwear. “There’s going to be a lot of shoppers.”

Despite an increase in e-commerce, holiday in-store sales have been steady so far for the New York retailer — all thanks to some unexpected snow in the Northeast this month.

Kahalani added, “People had no chance to buy something online. They flocked to our stores, and that’s been our injection of business for the holiday season.” Topsellers have included Ugg, Vans and private-label styles.

For Isack Fadlon, owner of California retailer Sportie LA, holiday business has been positive.

“We have been pleasantly surprised. We have experienced an increase in foot traffic and what seems to be a bigger consumer appetite this year compared to last year. It looks like consumer confidence is slightly up. And as Christmas falls on Monday, we expect a strong weekend as well.” Fadlon said.

With this added weekend before Christmas, more businesses across the country are expecting a jump in sales.

Said Maurice Breton, president and of founder Comfort Management Corp in Manassas, Va., “We’re open both Saturday and Sunday, and are expecting an uptick on Saturday. In the last 10 days, we’ve been up strong, with low double digits [over last year] in our company stores. We expect a strong ending to the Christmas holiday.”

Overall, Breton said the vast majority of purchases have been consumers shopping for themselves. “We’re seeing some nice gift card sales or a husband picks up a shoe [for his wife] that’s probably not perfect. It’s expensive, and hopefully the wife will use it and like it or return it for something she does like,” he said.

And while it’s clear that most retailers are banking on Saturday to be the strongest traffic day, Sunday is still up for grabs.

The NRF survey found that 55 percent of shoppers are expected to be done purchasing gifts by today, with 6 percent saying they will still be shopping Sunday and 5 percent saying their final gifts won’t be bought until after Christmas. (Only 12 percent of consumers had finished their holiday shopping as of Dec. 12.)

Christmas Eve is looking especially hopeful for Chris Stanley of Lamey Wellehan Shoes in Auburn, Maine, as wintry weekend weather may become an issue.

“Typically, the closer to Christmas Saturday falls, the better traffic is for the store,” Stanley explained. However, since a snowfall of 4 to 8 inches with freezing ice is expected on Saturday, it will likely impact the retailer’s traffic. “We’re worried we won’t be able to hit our numbers because of the weather. [But] it does mean we will probably have a stronger Sunday.”

Stanley noted the store expects to be busy with men shopping for last-minute gifts. So far, strong sellers have been winter boots, slippers and socks, with about half of consumers buying for themselves and the other half as gifts.

New York retailer French Sole Comfort is also looking forward to Sunday and will be taking a wait-and-see approach to extending hours based on traffic.

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