Shoppers turn out for last-minute gifts

Dec. 23, 2012 @ 10:03 PM

Shoppers on the hunt for last-minute holiday gifts reported Sunday that they ran into crowds, but in some cases, that was to be expected.
“Everyone’s hustling and bustling – it’s starting to sound a lot like Christmas, all through the mall,” said Chris Jones, who was having some last-minute gifts wrapped at Northgate Mall’s customer service counter.
Jones said the mall was “very, very busy,” and he still wasn’t done shopping yet.
Ginny Bowman, managing general partner of Northgate Associates, the owner of Northgate Mall, said the holiday season is “huge.” Sales in the period make up about 12 percent of sales for the entire year, she said.
Bowman said she won’t know what sales look like for the season until after stores report their sales. Sunday was busy, Bowman said, and she believes mall traffic has been for the whole holiday season.
Nationally, holiday sales for November and December were expected to be up about 2.5 percent this year compared with last year, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based company that provides retail and mall foot traffic information.
ShopperTrak predicted foot season traffic would be up 2.8 percent compared with the same period last year, for the first expected increase in foot traffic during the holiday season since the recession in 2008.
The National Retail Federation expected that holiday sales this year would increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion, according to a news release issued in October.
The federation’s 2012 holiday forecast, which looks at retail industry sales in November and December, is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 3.5 percent. The federation reported that actual holiday sales last year grew 5.6 percent.
“This is the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession,” said Matthew Shay, federation president and CEO, in a statement in the release. “In spite of the uncertainties that exist in our economy and among consumers, we believe we’ll see solid holiday sales growth this year.”
Granville County resident Charlene Rogers said shopping for last-minute gifts at Northgate on Sunday was a little chaotic, but not too bad.
Rogers said she’s “not too much into the commercial end of Christmas,” but does enjoy gift-giving, and had a few “odds and ends” to pick up for co-workers and family.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” she said of the traffic.
Lauren Anderson took her two daughters Casey, 2, and Alyssa, 9, to visit Santa Claus at Northgate on Sunday. After buying some cookies, they planned to do some holiday shopping as well.
Both of her daughters were dressed in red for the outing. Anderson said her daughter Casey also had new red sparkly shoes on.
“It was the longest line I’ve ever had at Northgate,” she said of the wait to see Santa.
Teresa Blackwell of Roxboro was with her boyfriend, Kionn Burt of Roxboro, and Burt’s mother, Cheryl Garner, of Charleston, W.V., to do some last-minute shopping. They were adding to gifts they’d already purchased, Blackwell said.
“I expected this,” Blackwell said of the traffic in the mall. “This is what this is supposed to look like.”
With her holiday shopping done, Cathie Collins of Durham came with her husband John Collins to Northgate to relax and watch people, some in a hurry, she said, and some children enjoying themselves.
“It’s very busy, very festive,” she said.
Collins said the mall has changed, noting that stores she had shopped at Northgate, JCPenney and Belk, are no longer at the mall, and there are new stores in place of others, such as an Ekowireless mobile accessories store near the Food Gallery where she remembers a jewelry store.
Before it was a mall – when Northgate was a strip shopping center – John Collins’ parents used to sit in front of a store there to watch the people go by.
“This is more for the younger generations,” Collins said of the line-up of certain stores at Northgate.
Meanwhile, at the New Hope Commons shopping center on Saturday, Christine and Chad Harrelson of Chapel Hill planned to buy arrows and related accessories at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Christine said her husband made archery bows for their five children.
“It’s not too bad,” Christine said of the traffic. “If there’s a Walmart, it’s going to be tricky.”