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Shoppers hope for last-minute deals
Belk associate Susana Rivas, left, rings up items for last-minute shoppers Shirley Canada, center, and her granddaughter, Mandi Bruce, a preschool teacher from Gainesville, at Lakeshore Mall Tuesday evening. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The Christmas music started before Thanksgiving. The decorated trees filled department stores soon after. And the months of buildup to Christmas culminates with the final hectic days of shopping for the big day.

On Tuesday, shoppers flooded the stores at Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville, hoping to snatch some last-minute deals.

Lisa Lassiter, regional vice president and store manager for Belk, said this year, the week of Christmas has been the busiest shopping week of the season.

"This year, it’s coming later. There’s been one less week between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, so I think it snuck up on people and they’ve waited until the last minute," Lassiter.

That was the case with Wanda Poole, who was squeezing in her Christmas shopping Tuesday at Lakeshore Mall.

"I just had a day off," Poole said.

Poole said time got away from her, and Tuesday was the first day off she had to go shopping.

Another reason Lassiter thinks people haven’t done their shopping yet is the economy.

"Everybody’s looking to see the best price on the items they’re looking for. Everybody’s definitely more conscious this year of how much they spend," Lassiter said.

According to the Consumer Reports Annual Holiday Poll, nearly 70 percent of Americans are scaling down on Christmas gifts. Of those, 37 percent are setting a spending limit, 14 percent are making homemade gifts, and 6 percent aren’t giving gifts at all.

"I think everybody is looking to cut back this year and get the most they can for their budget," Lassiter said.

Lassiter said her store has a number of incentives for Christmas Eve shoppers.

"In fragrance we have lowered prices on gift sets," Lassiter said. "We have coupons going on right now that are storewide."

Coupons include $10 off of a $50 purchase and $30 off of a $150 purchase.

The Consumer Reports Poll supports the theory that more people are looking for those savings. As of Dec. 7, 56 percent of Americans had started their Christmas shopping, down from 62 percent in 2007.

Pam Balenger said she has seen savings of up to 75 percent in malls this year.

"You usually don’t find that until after Christmas," Balenger said.

Balenger said Tuesday she was buying a few last minute gifts, but will wait until after Christmas to buy a few gifts for her daughter.

"I held off on a couple things for her thinking it’ll be cheaper after Christmas," Balenger said.

Taylor and Janean Parker were already finished with their Christmas shopping, but were at the mall for the sales.

"The sales are too good," Janean Parker said.

Taylor Parker said though he didn’t have any shopping left to do, he knew many of his friends did.

"Everyone I go to school with said they were waiting for the sales," he said.

And though many are choosing to wait this year, there are always some serial procrastinators.

"They’re usually men," Lassiter said. "As long as I’ve been in retail, it’s been that way."