Fear not if you have yet to complete your Christmas shopping because there is still time to shop local, according to Scotland County merchants.
Local shops will be open even on Christmas Eve day to serve last minute shoppers, said Shirt Tales owner Jim Willis.
“As a gift shop, this is generally a busy time, and we are encouraged by the business we have had,” Willis said.
Willis is encouraging Scotland County residents to spend money locally because it helps the local economy and the shopper as well.
“The advantage to shopping downtown is always the personal service that we give, knowing our customers and serving them in a pleasant, non-rushed, non-big box store atmosphere,” Willis said.
Among the hottest sellers in Willis’ store and in nearby Harley’s is Scotland County and Scotland High School Fighting Scots apparel.
“The Scots stuff continues to be a strong seller,” Willis said.
Harley’s has even designed its own custom Scotland County line, called Scots Life.
“The t-shirts and especially the sweatshirts and hoodies have sold well,” said owner Harley Norris. “The SaltLife brand is also a big seller,” Norris said.
And according to local shoppers, the Christmas rush is already in full effect, not only downtown but all over Scotland County.
Shopping at Hi-Lites and IC Beauty World Fashion downtown, Stephenae Mackenzie said that she was hoping to find the right gift for her best friend.
“The crowds haven’t been too bad. It will probably get worse on Sunday and Monday,” Mackenzie said.
Those that don’t mind the crowds may be rewarded for waiting until the final hours to shop. Last-minute sales and a number of stores offering deep discounts to move inventory before Christmas will await shoppers willing to wait.
Calling it a “Merry Christmas to everybody” Norris said that he gave all items in the popular Vera Bradley line a significant pre-Christmas markdown. Harley’s will no longer stock Vera Bradley items after this year.
With special extended hours on Christmas Eve, Norris said that he expects the mad rush of last minute shoppers to his store to mostly be men.
“Monday they will be stressed out — and they are generally always dads, fathers and husbands.”
Having opened an hour early in 2011 at 9 a.m. for Christmas Eve, Norris said that he will open even earlier this year to accommodate the early risers.
“Last year they were sitting in front of my store with their great big trucks with the dogs in the back and the deer in the headlights look in their eyes waiting for us to open. And they were grateful if we wrapped the gifts, but at that point they didn’t really care,” Norris said.
With just three days left until Christmas shopping centers were packed with consumers.
“I guess everyone is doing the same thing I’m doing,” said Lois Jones, who was trying to maneuver her way past a gaggle of fellow shoppers at the entrance of Wal-mart in Laurinburg Friday afternoon. “We all waited too long and now we have to deal with all the crowds and craziness.”
The Wal-mart parking lot was jammed with drivers trying to park or a way to make it to the next store. Most of the shopping carts coming out of the store were filled with items for Christmas dinner, last minute gifts or reams of wrapping papers.
The National Retail Federation is anticipating holiday sales to grow by more than 4 percent over last year. The federal said part of the prediction was due to Thanksgiving being so early this year, giving shoppers an extra few days to get out to the stores.
Shoppers like Daniel Simons tried to do most of their shopping online, in order to avoid the last minute mania.
“I tried to get most of (my shopping) done back in November,” said Simons after visiting downtown for stocking stuffers Friday afternoon.
While Simons has already received most of what he ordered, he said that he is concerned that weather conditions might hamper the effeciency of America’s two largest couriers during peak week.
According to the UPS website, “adverse weather conditions” in the company’s Worldport hub in Louisville, KY may cause “unavoidable delays.”
UPS and FedEx are both are expecting shipping volume to reach record levels this holiday season, with this week being the busiest of the entire year.