Last-minute shoppers scramble on Christmas Eve

Dec. 25, 2012 @ 12:00 AM


SANFORD — The parking lots of shopping centers and stores around town were full Monday as last-minute shoppers battled the crowds in search for the perfect gift.  

Southern Jewelers owner Lora Wright said it's an annual ritual to see the same men year after year shopping on Christmas Eve, typically looking for the ideal gift for the woman in their lives.

"It's almost like a tradition," she said. "We will have a lot today and we had a great Saturday."

Throughout the weekend and Monday, Wright said her store was full of last-minute shoppers — with more than 80 percent of those being men.

"There are a few who I see every year and, unless I hear from them, I stay open until they get here," she said. 

Bobby Wicker, volunteering for the Salvation Army on Christmas Eve by ringing the Army's bell in front of JC Penney, saw the Riverbirch Shopping Center parking lot steadily fill up with customers Monday.

"It has really started to pick up," he said. "Looks like it is going to be steady throughout the day."

Wicker said he typically buys presents the days before Christmas and likes to go into the malls with a plan.

"It's not one of my favorite things," he said. "I think it's a guy thing where you want to get in and out."

Shopper Jeremy Wells agreed, and said with three boys it's difficult to find the time to shop. He still had a lot he needed to do before the holiday. 

Bath & Body Works Manager Kristan Hawkins said there had been dozens of last-minute shoppers Monday, and most were looking for a particular item on their minds. Most of the shoppers were men who might have been unfamiliar with the store and looking for a present for their wives, Hawkins said.

"We joke in the few days before Christmas all the men come out," she said. "Some of them look a little panicked and try to find the perfect gift."

Another shopper, Jeffrey Jones, was looking for video games for family and friends at Sanford's Game Stop location Monday morning. He said he thought last-minute shopping was less stressful because there are fewer people out. 

Some people were waiting until payday late last week before they could begin their Christmas shopping, including Tonya Brown.

Shopping the weekend before hasn't been as stressful as it could be, she said, but was excited to get done. 

Mackeila Richard also said she was waiting on her most recent paycheck.  

"The way Christmas was spaced out this year, payday came right before the weekend," she said. "Typically, I space it out and it is definitely more stressful."

Richard said she was looking forward to shopping after the holidays and searching for after-Christmas sales.