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In Washington County, last-minute Christmas shoppers get busy

December 24, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - 'Tis the season for procrastination.

With just two days left until Christmas, last-minute shoppers were out Sunday looking for something - anything - to put under the tree.

"I don't know why I do this every year, but I do. This is just how I shop," Jamie Shelby said outside Bed, Bath and Beyond in Hagerstown.

Shelby, 29, of Boonsboro was carrying shopping bags from Borders, Dick's Sporting Goods and Office Max. She said she was "about half done" with her shopping.

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"At this point, I'm not exactly looking for the perfect gift. Anything close will do," Shelby said.

She was not alone.

An estimated 35 million people nationwide hadn't even started their holiday shopping as of last week, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Foundation.

Tracy Mullin, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a press release that despite a sagging economy and a slow start to the holiday shopping season, the last-minute rush was predicted to be "busier than ever this year."

Department stores were expected to be the destination of choice for shoppers the week before Christmas, followed closely by discount stores and the Internet, according to the survey.

Valley Mall in Hagerstown did its best Sunday to accommodate the buying blitz with extended hours and deals on mall gift cards. The mall stayed open until 11 p.m. Sunday and will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

Stores such as Macy's and The Bon-Ton offered discounts in an effort to lure as many customers as possible.

But while parking lots were crowded and lines were substantial at many of the area's shopping centers on Sunday, some said they weren't too bad.

"I thought it would be worse," said Bill Patterson, who was shopping at Prime Outlets at Hagerstown. "I was out this time last year and the crowds were a lot bigger."

David Myers of Clear Spring said he was in and out of Wal-Mart in less than 15 minutes.

"All I bought was gift cards, but still ... I figured I'd be in line for at least twice that long," Myers said.

Bad weather might have kept some people at home Sunday. By 1 p.m., a cold, steady drizzle was coming down over much of the area. Shoppers at outdoor centers such as Prime Outlets and The Centre at Hagerstown struggled to manage bags in one hand and an umbrella in the other while they moved from store to store.

Of course, at this time of year, some shoppers don't have the luxury of staying home because of rain.

Brian Sweeney of Chambersburg, Pa., said he had to go shopping Sunday. He usually orders most of his gifts online, but forgot a few this year. Now most online stores will not guarantee delivery by Tuesday.

"I mean, I don't want to be out here," Sweeney said. "But I don't really have a choice at this point. Christmas is two days away."

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