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Bargain hunters: Last-minute shoppers out in force

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Yashanti Ranson, left, and her mother, Joyce Ranson, both of Covington, join the crowd at the Mall at Stonecrest on Tuesday to wrap up Christmas shopping.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Yashanti Ranson, left, and her mother, Joyce Ranson, both of Covington, join the crowd at the Mall at Stonecrest on Tuesday to wrap up Christmas shopping.

CONYERS -- The last-minute holiday rush is on in area stores, although shoppers' opinions were mixed on Christmas Eve shopping.

Christine Bassett of Rockdale County surveyed the electronic learning toys for her 4-year-old son Tuesday behind a nearly full cart in Wal-Mart.

Bassett said she expected to finish her Christmas shopping Wednesday and thought Christmas Eve was too late to be looking for gifts.

"The stores are crowded. The lines are too long, and you know they're trying to close early," Bassett said.

Danny Cleland of Walton County said he could see why holiday shoppers wait until the last minute.

"I guess the same reason I do -- just so busy and don't have time or don't take the time," Cleland said. "I've been really busy this year. I haven't had a whole lot of time to shop."

"Sometimes it has to do with money," Bassett said of last-minute shoppers. "Sometimes some people are just trying to get the last-minute sales. Everybody's trying to keep a low-key budget and not spend all their money."

Many consumers kicked off holiday shopping on the day after Thanksgiving when retail stores promoted doorbuster sales for early birds. Prices were slashed by more than half in some cases.

Even with the tempting savings, some people have yet to begin their holiday shopping.

Less than 10 percent of people have completed their holiday shopping by the second week in December, according to a survey from retail trade association National Retail Federation.

This past weekend, the last weekend before Christmas, proved to draw out perusing holiday shoppers looking to cross off the last name on their shopping lists and anxious procrastinators looking to make a dent in their holiday shopping.

"That weekend was very prosperous," Target store manager Cheryl Kinsly said, adding that Friday's rain may have kept some people from coming out.

"So we definitely felt it Saturday, Sunday and even yesterday," Kinsly said Tuesday. "It was even a massive day, with just the foot traffic. A lot of out-of-town guests are coming into town."

Kevin Cole, manager of Lowe's in Conyers, also said the rain may have influenced shoppers this past weekend.

Cole said he has found the home improvement store generally isn't really that busy on Christmas Eve. Lowe's will close at 6 p.m. today.

"For the fact that a lot of people in the evening are already getting together with families and to allow employees to get together with their families as well," Cole said.

Kinsly expects more last-minute shoppers on Christmas Eve, looking for "stocking-stuffers" and "batteries ... things that they need to utilize the gifts they bought ... basic items like socks, underwear, all those things I think we'll start to see on Christmas Eve."

Target is accommodating the influx of shoppers, Kinsly said.

"We did go in and look at adding some more people during the day just to make sure we can continue to flow the guests through the lanes as quickly as possible," Kinsly said. "That's our No. 1 goal, is to try to service the guests on the floor and then get them out quickly."

With a chuckle, Ruthie Protsman of Rockdale County said she definitely expects to find holiday shoppers out on Christmas Eve.

"You'll find a lot of bargains sometimes on Christmas Eve," Protsman said. "I like to go for the excitement and just go in and see what I can find that's on sale."