Last-minute shoppers flock to stores in search of Christmas gifts

LIHUE — Last-minute Christmas shoppers beware: Santa Claus can’t do it all by himself.

If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping by now, there’s still time to go out and buy gifts before Sunday, but know that waiting in long lines and trying to find parking in a crowded lot is not the most wonderful time of the year.

“It’s crazy. It’s been pretty crazy but actually it’s when we get more to the last minute, like a day or two right before Christmas,” said a manager at Times Supermarket. “Christmas Eve, too, is one of the busiest days of the year for us.”

Black Friday is widely considered as the kickoff to the season of holiday shopping as discounted prices appear in stores as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is over.

But shopping doesn’t end on Black Friday, said Wade Lord, general manager of Kukui Grove Center. It only continues to grow.

“It kinda just rolls into the final week and builds into this kind of crescendo. It starts pretty strong beginning on Monday, then everyday gets stronger than the last,” Lord said. “It’s amazing to me that people are that patient to stand in line that long.”

The final days before Christmas are huge for retailers because so many people put off their shopping, especially this year. According to the Wall Street Journal, almost 60 percent of consumers polled by market-research firm NPD Group said they hadn’t completed half or more of their shopping as of Dec. 13, up from 50 percent who said so during the same period last year.

At Kmart, shopping the days before Christmas day can be as fun and festive — or frantic — as shopping on Black Friday, if not more so.

“They’re kind of similar. A Black Friday shopper has a game plan of what they want. The shopper right before Christmas really doesn’t,” said Anthony Florek, store manager at Kmart. “They just come to find a gift.”

While shoppers may not know what they’re buying until they get to the store, Florek told The Garden Island customers are still courteous despite the hustle and bustle for presents.

“Chaos. Organized chaos. But yeah they’re a lot friendlier and a lot happier; they understand that it’s the last day to shop,” he said. “They don’t really look for deals on those days; they’re just looking for something for someone to buy a gift for.”

For some customers, like Valerie Puni, shopping in the final hours was out of necessity and not her intention.

“We have family coming in — last-minute family flying in,” Puni said. “We didn’t know they were coming, so I had to get them something.”

When asked if shopping during the week of Christmas is a sort of routine for herself and her family, Puni laughed and said, “Not at all.”

“This is like the worst,” she said. “We were actually supposed to come in to town tomorrow to exchange gifts with a family member who lives on the Eastside, but I’m here today because I didn’t even want to shop tomorrow, knowing how bad it’s going to be.”

To help customers like Puni, stores at Kukui Grove Center are making the shopping experience as enjoyable as possible with store specials like Kmart’s “Shop Your Way” program, and Times’ sales on all baked goods and baking essentials.

Longs Drugs was offering stocking stuffers for $1 and under, liquor gift sets and a Panasonic handheld massager for $29.99.

Kmart, which will be open Christmas Day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and until 10 p.m. Christmas Eve, was throwing out all sorts of sales for procrastinators: A Magic Bullet blender, usually $47.99, was going for $28.99. Specially marked kids toys were under $10, and Schwinn and Mongoose bikes were marked down from $239.99 to $149.99.

Macy’s also has some deals going into Christmas Eve, with 30 to 75 percent storewide sale. Specials include 40 percent off Bluetooth headphones and chargers, Fitbit activity wristbands from $89.99 to $139.99, and free shipping online.

But more so than the shops at the center, Lord wants to ensure that the customer’s shopping experience be as joyous as possible.

“It’s about creating a positive environment for them, making it comfortable for them to be here,” he said. “For our tenants, that starts with high levels of customer service and a lot of inventory on the shelves.”

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