Deadline shoppers crowd stores, malls for last-minute gifts

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Sunday, December 25, 2016
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Candance McCowan reports on procrastinators who hit the mall on Christmas Eve to finish their shopping

ELMHURST, Queens (WABC) -- The last-minute holiday shopping rush came to its frantic conclusion Saturday, and Christmas Eve rain wasn't enough to keep procrastinators from hitting stores and malls in an effort to complete their gift lists.

Shopping centers like the Queens Center Mall stayed open late to help out, as retailers across the country wheeled out the savings and cleaned house before the even steeper post-Christmas sales promotions begin.

Online shipping deadlines had long passed, but many retailers offered other ways to get gifts at the last minute, whether it was staying open through the wee hours of the night like Toys R Us or offering Christmas Eve store pickup like Walmart.

Many stores extended their hours in the days leading up to Christmas.

Toys R Us stayed open until 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve, while Kohl's and Macy's were 24/7 over the past few days until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve. Sears closed at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, while Target was open until at least 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. K-Mart and Big Lots also had extended Christmas Eve hours until 10, while most other retailers closed up shop at 6 or 7 p.m.

If you couldn't make it to the mall, a quick stop at a drug or specialty store worked for many. CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid are increasingly stocking their shelves with more toys for the little ones, and those three drugstores also have a big selection of plastic gift cards for use at other stores. Meanwhile, office supplies store Staples sells flying drones and adult coloring books, while Dick's Sporting Goods has Apple Watches, headphones and GoPro cameras.

Then there were websites of some major stores that offered a way to give an instant gift, called an e-gift. It's similar to a gift card, but is supposed to be a little more personal: You choose the item you want to buy - say sneakers or a sweater - click the "E-Gift" or "GiftNow" button, pay, and then the recipient gets an email telling them you bought them a gift. The gift receiver accepts it and can make adjustments, such as changing the color or size, before it ships. Or they can just get something else entirely from the store.

The service carries no extra charges to the gift giver or receiver, and is available on several websites, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Ralph Lauren.

The luckiest of the bunch may have been Amazon Prime members, though, as online retailer let shoppers in Miami, New York and other cities order toys, electronics and other gifts as late as 9:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve for delivery in two hours, meaning it would arrive by midnight.

Still, procrastination may work in your favor if you end up not seeing a person you're shopping for until after Christmas. That's when after-holiday sales kick in. If the timing works, you'll likely pay less for a gift than you would if you had bought it before the holidays.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)