Options When There Are '0 Shopping Days Until Christmas'




You'd think, considering what I do for a living, my holiday shopping would be done by August, my presents neatly wrapped by Thanksgiving and come Christmas Eve, I'd be sipping eggnog and watching "It's A Wonderful Life."

You'd be wrong.

Instead, I fall in the bargain hunter's trap of always waiting for a bigger and better sale before putting my credit card on the line — which usually means gifts left to purchase and a frantic flurry of retail activity right up until it's time to fill the stockings.

I'm not proud of my holiday shopping dysfunction, but it's not just me.

According to this year's holiday survey conducted by BIGinsight for the National Retail Federation, only 11.3 percent of Americans say they have completely wrapped up their lists, which leaves much shopping left. Ten percent of shoppers will still be buying gifts on Dec. 24 and, on Christmas Day, 8.2 percent of respondents said they'll be shopping on line and close to four percent admitted they'll be scouring shelves in stores.

(Four percent take last-minute buying to an extreme and say they'll be completing their holiday shopping after December 26.)

"There's no question that holiday shoppers wanted to make the most out of retailers' promotions as early as they could, but as personal schedules get even busier these days, we know there are plenty of people who haven't even made a dent in their list yet," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in a press release when the survey was released.

But where to go when the countdown calendar reads "0 Shopping Days Until Christmas"? Time was, your options were limited to what you could scrabble together from the offerings at 7-Eleven. (Not that I would know this from personal experience, of course.)

A challenge, but not impossible, especially if the recipient was your car-loving, sports fan of a brother-in-law. The stores stocked caps and T-shirts with team logos, maps, atlases, jumper cables, ice scrapers and travel mugs. Not glamorous, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

These days, even 7-Eleven has gone more upscale, with prepaid phone cards and iTunes, Visa and Google gift cards.

And there are other options. If you're traveling into or out of Bradley International Airport, you could be picking up gifts there as well. Paradies, a chain of 550 stores in more than 75 airports across the country, carries a wide range of merchandise, including jewelry, books, travel accessories and apparel. At Bradley, the chain operates a full-line Brooks Brothers store, which begins its semi-annual, 50 percent off everything sale on Dec. 24. Time it right, and you could grab some deals.

"Paradies operate a number of stores, including Travel Mart, which carry sport-related merchandise and travel accessories, Brooks Brothers and newsstands," says Jill Nidiffer, director of marketing and communications. "Stores are open 365 days a year."

More than 1,200 company-operated Starbucks stores across the country will be open on Dec. 25 and for frantic gift seekers like me, that's very good news. Along with java, the shops have gourmet gift baskets, chocolates, mugs and for anyone who has been very, very good, the company's new Verismo premium single cup coffee maker. The sleek machine with European styling comes in an assortment of colors, including silver, black, burgundy, and champagne, and is available in two design options, the 580 base model for $199, and the V·585, which offers additional features for $399.

Some health spas and yoga studios are open on holidays as well and sell gift certificates, athletic gear and yoga wear, which means you can also give the gift of post-holiday good health and stress-relief.

Got foodies or movie fans on your list? Many restaurants and movie theaters are open and all sell gift cards and movie passes.

Most chain pharmacies — Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid — will have some stores open on Christmas Day. They, too, stock gift cards for retail stores and national restaurants, along with watches, books, digital cameras, small appliances, compact disc and MP3 players, toys, cosmetics and at this time of year, plenty of gift items.

If a supermarket is open in your area, you've got it made. Most stock bestsellers, toys, kitchen gadgets and cookware, flowers, plants and seasonal gifts.

Magazine or newspaper subscriptions are the gifts that keep on giving throughout the year. Grab one at your corner gas station Xtra Mart and give it to your favorite newshound. (Just remember to follow through and place the order.)

Finally, remember, Amazon is open 24-7, 365 days a year. Log on, pick out your gifts, print out pictures and wrap them up. (If you have gifts sent directly to recipient's homes, they won't have to pay extra baggage fess to tote them home.)

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