Many wait until the last minute to complete holiday shopping

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

Local grocery and retail stores have been flooded with a frenzy of shoppers trying to make their final holiday purchases. A recent study completed by a leading retailer shows that consumers often wait until it is almost too late to finish their holiday shopping.
   Nearly 80 percent of the respondents in the survey stated they usually are still out making holiday purchases the final week before Christmas day. Approximately 20 percent of those surveyed expect to still be out shopping on Christmas Eve.
   Local grocery store managers agree that the days leading up to Christmas are the busiest of the year. Food purchases often take a back seat to gift shopping, so grocery stores are hit the hardest during the hours right before Christmas day.
   David Leonard, store manager at Food City in Elizabethton, said customer volume began increasing last Friday, and that yesterday was the busiest day of the season for he and his employees. Leonard said the store braces for the onslaught of customers by increasing its number of employees on each shift.
   "We do not add any additional employees, but we do significantly increase the amount of hours that each employee works," Leonard said. "We just try to take care of our customers the best that we can."
   Richard Tester, manager of White's Fresh Foods, expects the influx of shoppers at his store to continue until around 2:00 p.m. today. He has called on the help of all his employees during the heavy holiday shopping period.
   "We are on a sales per man-hours schedule. We base it on sales, and then increase work hours that way," Tester said. "Today, every employee I have in the store works, then on Christmas Eve we cut it back down some. Today everybody is working eight hour shifts, then tomorrow we will cut it back down to four hours because business slows down."
   Most of Tester's last minute customers are purchasing items to add the finishing touches to their Christmas dinners. "People are getting stuff to make candies. Marshmallow cream, morsels, and pie shells are big things," Tester said. "They are also getting trays from the deli. People like to have trays, like ham and cheese and fruit trays while they open gifts so we have a lot of deli orders going out today too."
   Those looking for last minute gifts are among the grocery shoppers on the go this Christmas Eve. The International Mass Retail Association (IMRA) estimates that one in ten holiday shoppers planed to begin their holiday gift buying the day after Thanksgiving, but retailers heaviest customer turn out is in December.
   "Every year we find that people are determined to finish much earlier than they actually do," IMRA President, Robert Verdisco said.
   In addition to actually purchasing the gifts, last minute shoppers have the added stress of getting their presents wrapped and under the tree before Christmas morning. The IMRA reported that a quarter of Americans spend Christmas Eve wrapping the presents they purchase at the last minute.