December 20, 2009 in City

Shoppers’ clocks ticking

A Secret Santa’s helper
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Shoppers make their way in and out of River Park Square in downtown Spokane with packages and bags on Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Tammy Fuller didn’t have any Christmas shopping left to do Saturday.

Instead, she wandered leisurely through River Park Square enjoying the hustle and bustle of the season, without the added stress of last-minute gifts to purchase.

“I did my shopping this summer,” Fuller said. She still managed to walk out with a couple of shopping bags on her arm, stopping at Nordstrom and Macy’s downtown.

“They had some incredible sales,” Fuller said.

Fuller wasn’t alone in her shopping habits this weekend. The day retailers call Super Saturday didn’t seem to be that super, at least not locally. While area malls and department stores were crowded with last-minute shoppers Saturday, local retailers said it wasn’t unmanageable.

Most people assume the busiest shopping day of the season is the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, when stores offer “door buster” deals and lure people in with early-bird hours.

But retail experts say the Saturday before Christmas typically is the busiest retail shopping day of the year. According to the National Retail Federation, more than half of shoppers planned to get their Christmas shopping done before or on Dec. 19 this year. The other half will be scrambling this week to fill Christmas wish lists.

“We’ve been steady but not too crazy at all,” said Heather Shoop, a cashier at Whiz Kids toy store at River Park Square.

But this year, retailers at the downtown mall said shopping trends are anything but normal, as many consumers shopped early, fearing depleted inventories. Many stores said they would carry fewer items this year to prevent overstock in an economy still on the mend.

“This year everything has been different,” said Susan Peterson, who owns the Children’s Corner Bookstore and Whiz Kids. “People really bought early.”

Employees at Williams-Sonoma said their inventory was down about 33 percent over last year and that many items were sold out. Employees said Dec. 23 is always a busier day in terms of revenue than Super Saturday or Black Friday.

Many people shop the day after Thanksgiving out of tradition and tend to look more than shop, retailers said.

Shopper Bonnie Cobb, who came to Spokane from the Tri-Cities, said that Black Friday drew larger crowds and was more stressful than Saturday’s scene.

Cobb and her mother, Dorothy Frazier of Spokane, were shopping for last-minute odds and ends.

“It’s getting near the end, so maybe people are just burned out,” Frazier said. “But I’ll probably still wake up tomorrow and think of a few other things I need to get.”

Down at Santa Express, a seasonal kids-only store in Crescent Court where volunteers help children shop for items priced from 50 cents to $8, parents waited for their kids to come out with their secret purchases. All the proceeds from the shop go to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.

“We have been very steady all week,” said Fe’Lecia Boudy, the store’s manager. “It’s always great to see the kids really excited to shop for their parents” instead of the other way around.

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