Smaller crowds this year for last dash of shopping on Christmas Eve

HICKSVILLE, Long Island (WABC) -- The coronavirus pandemic is impacting this year's holiday shopping, with much smaller crowds hitting the stores on Christmas Eve to pick up some last-minute gifts.

The first shoppers trickled in Thursday, and many were there to make returns, not purchases, with many ordering the bulk of their purchases online this year.

That's the story of most shoppers the holiday season -- dodging crowds to keep safe.

ALSO READ | These stores will be open to shoppers on Christmas Eve

Stores had lines outside in order to adhere to social distancing regulations, with lots of sanitizer stations and extra cleaning measures in place.

Still, shoppers at Broadway Commons in Hicksville were determined to get those Christmas gifts in the nick of time. Call the pandemic a convenient excuse, though, because for many of them, it had nothing to do with the procrastinating.

"As long as I've been alive," Mike Desmond said when asked how many years he's put off the task.

What is different, however, is they've certainly had more downtime at home pondering what to buy.

"It's the only explanation, really," shopper Paul Bodkin said. "I think if you ask all these guys, so much thought went into this, you know, here it is, the pinnacle."

For some, it's jewelry, or clothing. And for others, like AnneMarie Bopp of East Meadow, it's that special item she knows will be a pleasant surprise for her daughter.

"I'll watch the news, and I just won't let her watch the news," she said.

ALSO READ | 7 On Your Side tips for holiday gift returns

With an outstretched arm, Santa was also on hand. But there were no lines for photos this year. Joyce Gross was wistful about it but took a photo with the big guy anyway.

"It's very blue," she said. "But we have a lot to be thankful for, right?"

So thankful that what she did for the family who went next touched a mother's heart.

"When I went to go pay and get our package, they said the woman before us paid for the whole package," Dina Viskoc. "That was so nice. I was shocked."

And while it is pretty different with Santa, the upside for shoppers was that there were no long lines and no crowds, which helped some feel safe.

But for those who still aren't comfortable indoors, there's always curbside pickup at Target.

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