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Attention shoppers: Your last minute’s almost up

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Alice and Jackie Scott were resting their feet on a bench - feet that were obscured by half a dozen shopping bags from Aeropostale and Victoria's Secret packed with knits in bright colors and metallic shades.

They'd been at the Charleston Town Center Mall for hours, buying Christmas gifts for their three daughters. They were tired, a little cranky and very eager to be finished.

"And we have to buy TVs next," Alice said.

Two days before Christmas, Charleston's shopping centers were teeming with last-minute shoppers rushing to finish the job - some cheerfully, others less so.

Alice and Jackie aren't last-minute shoppers by nature; they're rarely at the mall two days before Christmas. But their home, in Lovely, Ky., caught fire in June and they just finished rebuilding last week - a project that took priority over holiday shopping.

"If it weren't for our kids we would have gone on past Christmas without doing anything," Alice said.

"This is awful. I will never do it like this again."

As it is, they're only giving gifts to their kids, not each other. But with an 8-year-old expecting an impending visit from Santa Claus, they couldn't skip it altogether, so there will be stacks of gifts under the tree come Christmas morning, even if Alice has to spend all of Christmas Eve wrapping them (a job that usually takes her a week).

Just down the hall was another bench, similarly filled with shoppers and their bags, but with a slightly more upbeat presence.

"I always go shopping at the last minute," said Brian Brumfield, 56. "It's just a happier time. I don't get into the Christmas spirit until it gets really close."

Most years, that's not until Christmas Eve. Last year he was at the mall an hour before it closed for the holiday and up wrapping presents until midnight.

That approach seems to be part of an overall strategy to squeeze as much holiday spirit out of the chore as possible: he claims that just before Christmas the store clerks are more cheerful, the atmosphere more festive.

"If you shop early, in October or something, it's not like you're Christmas shopping," he said. "If you wait until closer, you're doing it for the holiday."

Sure, the shelves can be a bit picked over, which means more walking and some wish-list concessions, but to Brumfield, it's worth it. He was happy with what he'd bought for his wife, and still had time to spare.

Chris Harber, 39, says it's a guy thing: he was also at the mall Sunday, and consistently waits to shop until the last hours.

"On Christmas Eve last year I was in Victoria's Secret and it was just full of guys," he said. "And we were just tearing things off the shelves."

On Saturday Harber spent 10 hours in the car driving to Jeffersonville to pick up his wife's gift, so it's not like he's not willing to put in the effort. It just never occurred to him to do the work in advance. The fact that he'd gotten his wife's gift on Saturday was actually pretty impressive.  

"And I've still got to get something for my niece," he said. "So I'll be back Christmas Eve."

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.


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