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Retailers See $$$ On Christmas Eve

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Economy Retail Sales
Carey-Codd-600x450 Carey Codd
Carey Codd is a General Assignment Reporter for CBS4 News and jo...
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MIAMI (CBS4) – Stores across South Florida are rolling out deals and hope to be swimming in shoppers all day long as last-minute shoppers try to finish off their Christmas buying Friday. Retailers hope the last-minute rush will be Black Friday, the sequel.

Most workers are off on Friday which stores hope will help push the shopping season to its best year since 2007. The National Retail Federation predicted that holiday spending will reach $451.5 billion this year, or roughly 3.3 percent more than 2009.

“I was here until yesterday at 8 o’clock and then we left and now I come again,” said shopper Angelica Sierra.

Angelica and her daughter are on the hunt for a final four or five gifts and failure is not an option.

“I have to get them something,” Angelica said. “I really have to get them something.”

If the predicted sales numbers come to fruition, it would be the biggest year-over-year gain since 2006 and the largest total since spending hit a record $452.8 billion in 2007. A strong finish on Christmas Eve could push the numbers to the highest ever.

Retailers say shoppers who come out on Christmas Eve were either waiting for the biggest discounts or they didn’t have the money to spend earlier, she said. Or they just tend to procrastinate.

While many Black Friday shoppers relish the hunt, last-minute buyers are harried and focused on getting things done.

“I was up early this morning, came in, and got these shoes and I’m done, I’m headed home,” said shopper Mamie Fulmore.

Stores push men’s and women’s sweaters in their circulars, while shoes and children’s apparel take a back seat. Jewelry also tends to be a top last-minute gift item, though that category has been strong throughout the season.

E-commerce has driven much of the holiday’s spending growth. For the season to-date, $28.36 billion has been spent online, a 12 increase over last year, according to research firm comScore. Online shoppers spent $900 million last weekend alone.

Many people who postponed their shopping this year blame busy schedules. The number of hours U.S. workers are putting in at the office each week has been on the upswing since the official end of the recession in June 2009, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That leaves less time for shopping during the week.

Luckily for those Christmas Eve shoppers, store inventories are not as depleted as last year, when merchants scared about having too many leftovers saw some empty shelves near the end of the season. But shoppers are not seeing the 75-percent-off-everything fire sales that characterized the 2008 holiday.

Retailers say shoppers have mostly stuck to a big lesson taught by the recession: using cash, not credit. Toward the end of the season, they pulled out the plastic a little more often, but that’s normal. Overall, analysts consider the increased spending a sign more consumers have paid down debt and have cash to spend.

Besides sales, retailers are finding other ways to accommodate procrastinators.

Many stores, including Best Buy Co., let shoppers order online and then pick up the merchandise at the store. Best Buy’s deadline to order on its website is 3 p.m. Christmas Eve, and most stores close at 6 p.m.

7-Eleven convenience stores, always handy in a pinch, will be open all day on Christmas and are expanding their gift-worthy offerings by stocking a broader selection of wines, hand-held games and stuffed animals.

Toys R Us plans to keep its doors open until 10 p.m. Friday, but is taking a different tack from the discounters, raising prices on some popular toys to take advantage of shoppers’ desperation. It bumped up the prices of the Leapster Explorer hand-held learning device by $20 and the Nerf Stampede Blaster by $5, said Gerrick Johnson, a toy analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

If all else fails, shoppers will fall back on gift cards. Spending on the plastic vouchers is expected to reach nearly $25 billion this holiday season, 5 percent more than last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

And for some, they will continue to shop right up until the very last minute.

“You’re on the clock right,” asked CBS4’s Carey Codd. “Rest of the day, til midnight right?” responded shopper Jim Anthony.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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