Raleigh, N.C. — Across the Triangle Wednesday, at big box stores and luxury boutiques, last-minute shoppers marked the procrastinator's holiday – Christmas Eve.
The holiday season has been a disappointment for most stores. Analysts say that sales at established stores for November and December could fall by 2 percent, same-store sales be down 7 percent for the holiday season and fourth-quarter profits fall 18.8 percent.
At Crabtree Valley Mall, some stores advertised up to 70 percent off, while others tried to lure customers with buy-one-get-one-free offers. The mall was open for extended hours on Wednesday, trying to get shoppers to open their pockets one final time.
Shopper Mike Ray found the wait worthwhile. He had few crowds to contend with on Wednesday morning. "I'm last-minute shopping for my wife and my son. ... There's nobody here," he said.
Jeannette Mayo was shopping Wednesday, but didn't plan to spend much. Mayo is out of work, and many of her friends are tightening their budgets, too.
For Blaire Cross, Christmas shopping means narrowing her list. "I have a lot of friends who I love to get something small, but I've just dwindled it down to my best friends, my family," she said.
"Seems like this year, with the economy the way it is, we're having to do what you gotta do," Al Wells acknowledged.
While some last-minute shoppers cited the economy as their reason for waiting, one busy mom didn't use that excuse.
"It has nothing to do with the economy," Andrea Scheviak said. "It simply has to do with life in general and things that come up last minute."
She did have some help on Wednesday. Son Cory accompanied her to Crabtree Valley Mall. "Usually my parents pick out most of the gifts. This year I get to help," he said.
At the high-end boutiques of Raleigh's North Hills, few retailers were slashing prices.
While elsewhere shoppers capitalized on deep discounts, luxury retailers didn't feel the need to drop prices to make a sale.
At "uniquities mix," a hip clothing store, the scarves and hot, designer Marc Jacobs bags were not marked down. Manager Elizabeth Chisholm laughed when asked if the $1,195 price tag on a purse was discounted.
"I feel like, at this point, people are scrambling for last minute gifts and it doesn't matter if it's discounted. They just need it," she said.
Retail research shows that while wealthier Americans are still spending, luxury sales are down.
"Right now we're waiting for the holiday shopping to wind down and then on the 26th we're going to start doing some discounts," she added.
Some last-minute shoppers were still willing to splurge on gifts. Jeff Hobart considered scaling back, but worries that next year could be even worse.
"This year, we sort of said, 'Let's go ahead and celebrate and hope for a better year,'" he said.
Marc Aman reasoned that in tough times, holiday gifts take on a greater meaning.
"I think maybe you to want create joy in people's lives a little more than you would in previous years because things are sort of tough for people," he said.