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Shoppers battle last-minute crowds
Checking Christmas lists goes down to the wire
Steve Hauglie visits the fragrance counter at Belk and gets some help from Ann Lavasseur on Sunday afternoon.

With less than 24 hours left until Christmas, stores are buzzing with last-minute shoppers looking to check off the last of the presents from their twice-checked lists.

From Lakeshore Mall to the square of downtown Gainesville, hundreds are scrambling to make sure they have all the presents for Tuesday morning.

Carol Parks, a schoolteacher, was at Lakeshore Mall on Sunday afternoon trying to tie up the loose ends of her shopping list.

“I did not start shopping until Friday,” she said. “I teach school, so I’ve been very, very busy. I’ve had to wait until the last minute.”

On Friday, Parks braved North Point Mall and its “terrible” traffic, then set out to conquer the Mall of Georgia on Saturday. Waiting until the last minute, she said, can sometimes add to the stress of making sure the wish list is complete.

“It can be stressful at times with fighting the traffic and the people, but (Sunday was) not that bad at all,” Parks said. “I just try not to stress out about it.”

But stores, and their employees, however tired, are prepared for the rush of last-minute shoppers, hoping to help curb some of the stress for customers.

“We just make sure we’re staffed all through the day,” said Linley Bowyer, assistant store manager at Belk in Gainesville.

And Bowyer knows where the hot spots in the stores are during the days leading up to Christmas.

“We get a lot of our last-minute shoppers in fragrance,” she said. “Generally, it’s the men running in last second to get their wife the perfume they love.”

Steve Hauglie, who was making a pit stop at the store’s fragrance counter to find something for his wife’s stocking, is in that boat.

Most of his shopping, he said, is complete, but he was out Sunday to add the finishing touches.

“I’m just coming to get my wife some stocking stuffers,” Hauglie said. “I’m bad. I’m a last-minute shopper.”

On the other side of the aisle, Tara Patton, accompanied by her family, was skimming over jewelry for her various Christmas present recipients.

Patton, who is visiting Gainesville from Charlotte, N.C., said it seems Christmas shopping is a never-ending process, no matter how early it’s started.

“There’s always something else,” she said.

“You think you’re finished, then you start wrapping and you realize you don’t have enough, so you have to go get something else.”

Patton, and her husband, John, both said they are habitual procrastinators when it comes to Christmas shopping.

But, they said, it’s become the norm, and roaming through crowded malls and parking lots is not an issue anymore.

“We’ve been doing it so long, it’s not a problem,” said John Patton.

Some shoppers, however, do not have the flexibility for last-minute shopping. Store employees, generally working additional hours during the holidays, have to get on top of their shopping earlier than most.

“I think most of us have made a pact with our families already that if it’s not in our store, you better tell us way in advance,” said Bowyer.

But last minute is just how some people operate. In fact, some of their best shopping is done under a rapidly approaching deadline.

“It’s just my personality,” said Jessica Stuckey, who was shopping for watches at Lakeshore Mall. “I’m last minute on everything.

“I do this all the time. I’m used to it.”