This could be the year that fewer gifts are under the Christmas tree, which could be a sign of the times. Last-minute shoppers are snapping up good deals, but it's not going to make up for a reluctance to spend that started weeks ago.
It's Christmas Eve and while a last-minute rush is always expected, mall employees say it's no busier than a typical Saturday. The big draw is slashed prices -- discounts of 50, 60 and even 70 percent. Jeannine Hanson has a long gift list.
"I'm saving about a third to a half off everything I'm picking up, said Jeannine Hanson, a Burlingame resident.
"So that's serious savings," said ABC7's David Louie.
"It is. It really is," said Hanson.
The Crate and Barrel store at Hillsdale saw a burst of shoppers on Tuesday and managers were happy to see the Christmas Eve traffic. There were people ready to snap up bargains and last-minute seasonal items.
"Given the situation right now, this will be a great Christmas for us, just with everything going on in the larger landscape, so we couldn't be happier," Linda Wampler, the area manager responsible for peninsula and San Jose Crate & Barrel stores.
Deep discounts are designed to get reticent shoppers to spend. Some shoppers recognize the temptation, and they're using cash instead of credit cards to curb any urges to go overboard. Lee Caraher of Millbrae is one of them.
"It does help us keep it under control because at the last second everything's on sale, you can buy so much on sale now. It's like, 'I can get this, I can get that,' and all of a sudden, you spent $300 when you meant to spend $100, so we're trying very hard not to do that," said Caraher.
Holiday sales are critical to retailers, contributing up to 40 or even 50 percent of their annual sales, but this has been a tough year for consumers.
"When you hit paycheck, retirement and house, they've really knocked out the props from the consumer, so I think the consumers probably have been behaving quite rationally in the circumstance of those three big hits this year," said Terry Connelly, Ph.D., the Dean of Business at Golden Gate University.
A few stores throughout the Bay Area are staying open tonight in a last-ditch effort to maximize their sales. Golden Gate University's Terry Connelly says it's too late for some retailers. He says to expect some new bankruptcy filings in the start of the next year.