Last-minute holiday shoppers stimulate businesses

December 24, 2011 5:37:07 PM PST
Scores of shoppers waited for the last day to do most of their holiday shopping. Crowds filled many of the Bay Area malls and parking lots.

They may have had to fight the crowds, but they also got some great last minute deals.

The streets along Union Square were filled with many last minute shoppers and tourists. Many people waited until Christmas Eve to shop, but that made shop owners very happy.

Kathy Mullins, who went shopping at Hillside Mall, was not alone.

"I kept saying tomorrow, I'll do it," Mullins said. "I've run out of tomorrows."

Procrastinators filled parking lots at Bay Area malls and crowded into stores trying to find those last minute gifts.

"Things popped up where I needed a couple of extra things," said Nick Batti who found a vacuum cleaner. "I guess this is one thing you really shouldn't give to someone at Christmas."

Shoppers were lured to many stores by almost unbeatable sales of fifty, sixty, seventy or 80 percent off. That was good news to someone like Erica Youngblood at Serramonte Mall.

"I think they are probably trying to get people out shopping more, because the economy is still not where it should be," Youngblood said. "To me, I think the prices are better."

Sales are luring people into stores. Economist Kit Yarrow says retail predictions in June and July were only a 2 percent increase over last year.

"It turns out that it's at least 4 percent more than last year," said Yarrow. "So what that says is, not only are retail sales really strong, but also the consumers are feeling better about spending money than they did just five, six months ago."

Lisa Tom at Sole Desire in Burlingame agrees.

"Overall, the spirit of people is they're willing to spend a little more than last year," Tom said.

That means a great December for stores like Janie and Jack.

"Surprisingly, it's been pretty busy," said Sandra Corzantes. "We weren't expecting that much and for the month of December our numbers are pretty high."

Yarrow says high retail numbers are a huge part of a healthier economy: More retail sales mean more jobs.

"Retailers...hire about 500,000 new employees this time of the year," Yarrow said, "and many of those people will get to keep those jobs into the new year if retail sales are really strong."

Every shopper we spoke with on Saturday was not only willing to spend more money, but was also optimistic about the economy.

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