Gridlocked traffic, screaming kids, rude people — it’s that joyous time of the year.
Holiday shopping stragglers looking for last-minute gift items and steep discounts crowded Las Vegas malls Wednesday as the clock ticked down to Santa Claus coming to town.
Though the Christmas shopping season is entering its final hours, procrastinators have plenty of shopping left to do, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.
The average person had completed 46.7 percent of their holiday shopping by the second week of December, less than the 47.1 percent completed by that time last year. It’s the lowest percentage since 2004, when the average person had completed 46.3 percent of their shopping by then.
“I’m just finishing up,” Sandi Saito said Wednesday at Meadows mall, where she bought T-shirts for her baby sitter. “Normally, I’m not a last-minute shopper, but my husband was sick, so I’m off the ball.”
About 100 people were lined up for photographs with Santa at Meadows, compared with maybe a dozen at Fashion Show. The line at Starbucks was longer than the checkout line at most stores.
Retailers have struggled with sales during the worst recession in decades and probably will not be saved by the Christmas shopping season this year. With high unemployment and tight credit, consumers are cutting back.
Pat Camardella said she probably will spend $800 to $900 on gifts for her husband, four children and 11 grandchildren. That is a little less than last year, she said.
“I started eliminating buying for the adults because of the economy and because I’m retired and not making that extra money,” she said at Dillard’s at the Fashion Show mall.
Noni Parker said she “went easy” this year shopping for about seven people. She was looking for deals at Fashion Show and said they really weren’t there.
“I’m kind of last minute this year because I’ve been sick and haven’t had the energy to get out and shop,” Parker said as she carried an Abercrombie bag with cologne for her grandson. “The crowds aren’t bad, really, compared to last year.”
Heather Volera, marketing director of Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson, said foot traffic was strong Monday and has stayed steady all week. The number of children having their picture taken with Santa has increased, a good indicator of traffic.
Expect heavy discounting in the final days before Christmas as retailers try to deplete their inventory, Volera said. She bought clothes at the Gap last week at 25 percent off and now is seeing discounts of 30 percent and 40 percent.
“There’s a lot of last-minute shoppers,” she said. “The longer you wait, the better deals you find.”
The National Retail Federation survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found that nearly 42 million people, 19.1 percent, had not started their shopping as of late last week, while 8.6 percent of shoppers have finished. Adults older than 65 have completed the most shopping, 50 percent, while adults 45 to 54 years old have completed the least, 44.1 percent.
“Retailers know the final lap counts the most and are planning to emphasize promotions and discounts to bring in last-minute shoppers,” NRF chief executive Tracy Mullin said.
The federation continues to project that holiday sales will decline 1 percent from last year to $437.6 billion. In November, retail sales declined 0.8 percent from the same month a year ago.
Contact reporter Hubble Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0491.THERE’S ALWAYS CHRISTMAS DAY
There’s always someone going on a desperate Christmas Day mission to buy a late gift item, wrapping paper, batteries, a greeting card or perhaps ingredients for a homemade meal.
They’re usually limited to drugstores and convenience stores.
Las Vegas has several Walgreens stores that usually are open 24 hours. You can find several gifts there, including digital cameras, toys and games and Disney products.
“Like every Christmas season, our performance is driven by the final days, which makes this a big week,” Walgreens Chief Executive Officer Greg Wasson said Monday on a conference call. “It could be a more important this year as more consumers delayed the holiday shopping to the last minute.”
7-Eleven is always open and offers prepaid phone cards, cell phones and services, DVDs and iTune gift cards. The stores also have cookies and candies and party items.
More than 5,400 CVS stores will be open. They sell liquor, perfume and electronics, including a Prism 7-inch, high-definition LCD TV for $80 and a Craig mp3 player for $30.
The Forum Shops at Caesars is open for normal business hours on Christmas, as are the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood.
Some Wal-Mart stores are going to stay open, and hours and location vary.
STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS