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Tips for the last-minute Christmas shopper

Profile image for Randy Cummings
Randy Cummings, For the Denton Record-Chronicle

Around this time of year, nearly every retailer can recall an experience — providing a story to tell — about a frantic procrastinator who has ignored their calendar and found themselves in the final days, hours and minutes of being able to wrap up their Christmas shopping.

But there's good news for these desperate gift seekers staring down Christmas Day while the clock ticks away: Last-minute shopping can be successful.

Emily Wiest, who operates La Di Da, a women's boutique on the Square, has on occasion gotten a call from the husband of one of her regular customers on Christmas Eve after her store has locked up for the holiday.

Maggie Macnabb, left, and Phillip Carr, right, shop at La Di Da at the downtown Square in Denton on Monday. DRC
Maggie Macnabb, left, and Phillip Carr, right, shop at La Di Da at the downtown Square in Denton on Monday. 

"I'll receive a phone call and someone will say, 'Hey, can you meet me at the store real quick — I just need to pick up one more thing,'" said Wiest. "And, of course, I'll do that. We want to take care of our customers.

"It's always the husbands on Christmas Eve," she said. "It's usually customers that we know their wives. They'll say, 'You know who she is. You know what she likes. But don't tell her I was in here.'"

Over at More Fun Comics & Games, on the south side of the Square, manager Samuel Bruce usually deals with confused, overwhelmed parents in the final days leading up to Christmas who are scrambling to find the hottest video games or comics sought by their children.

"We get a lot of parents who come in with a list and they have no idea what this or that is," Bruce said. "[They say] 'I have no idea what this means on this list. Could you help me?' We get a lot of that the last couple of weeks of December."

Samuel Bruce assists a customer last week at More Fun Comics & Games.DRC
Samuel Bruce assists a customer last week at More Fun Comics & Games.

A year ago, a couple of days before Christmas, a befuddled mother and father showed up in Bruce's store with lists from their kids containing requested presents that neither parent had any clue about beyond its title.

"We had a couple of parents come in and they had like five different lists with maybe 10 things for their kids," Bruce said. "They had no idea what's on the lists and no idea what they were looking for. We were able to get just about everything on their lists or something close to what was on the lists."

The stress of last-minute shopping can be reduced, if not avoided, for both the retailer and the consumer when a little preparation and common sense are utilized.

Tips from aimed at helping down-to-the-wire shoppers range from making a list and sticking to it to stay within a budget to simply giving out gift cards — nearly every business now offers them — because they're no longer considered impersonal while allowing the recipient the opportunity to get exactly what they what.

The website emphasizes not overspending on any one gift, setting a shopping time limit and knowing when to stop. Clothes as gifts should be avoided, with a better option being offering to take the person on a shopping outing.

Shopping online, of course, is today's easiest option for shopping. But you need to factor in gift availability and shipping costs and time to make sure your present makes it to its destination before Christmas morning.

Other options for the last-minute shopper can include whipping up a tasty food treat (cookies, cake or pie) or something created by your unique talents, such as a framed photograph, painting or pottery. As a last resort, you may want to consider the regift — taking an unopened gift previously received and giving it to someone else. Just make sure you're not giving a present back to the person who originally gave it to you.

Retailers know to plan ahead when stocking their outlets for the holidays, and most will adjust their hours of operation and staff work schedules to accommodate increased business during the Christmas season.

Dallyce Potess says shoppers like to come to Norman Roscoe Print & Design to find Denton-related goods.DRC
Dallyce Potess says shoppers like to come to Norman Roscoe Print & Design to find Denton-related goods.

Today's businesses, such as the Norman Roscoe Print & Design store on the Square, also realize the value of advertising and promoting through social media.

"We definitely have a presence on social media," said Norman Roscoe representative Dallyce Potess. "We get our name out there by telling people that we have things here for your last-minute shopping needs. Being public on Instagram and Facebook really helps.

"And we will pull out a lot of our Christmas items," she said. "People enjoy coming here to find their friends and family members Denton-related and Denton-local goods. That's already popular to begin with, and that's what we do."

Many stores will be open on Christmas Eve to help out those shoppers trying to beat the clock. Believe it or not, chasing down gifts on Christmas Eve is not that bad of an idea, according to experts who note the smaller crowds on that day.

"We'll stay as long as there are people in the store," Wiest said. "There's no set closing time. Typically in the past, it dies off around 4 [p.m.]. People are getting ready for church that evening or they're getting ready for dinner. They're done."

In early December at this year's Christmas tree lighting on the Square, More Fun Comics remained open more than an hour after its usually closing time.

"As long as there was somebody in the store browsing, we stayed open," Bruce said. "We weren't in a rush to kick anybody out or anything like that."

Accommodating retailers — now that's something last-minute shoppers can be grateful for.