Crunch time for Christmas shoppers at Tacoma Mall

Final weekend before holiday brings a horde of last-minute deal-seekers to mall

Staff writerDecember 21, 2013 

For named shopping days, we have Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

How about Desperation Saturday?

With just four days left until Christmas, thousands of shoppers swarmed the Tacoma Mall on Saturday, filling parking lots and searching stores with heightened urgency as the annual day of giving approaches.

“The Saturday before Christmas is always one of the biggest shopping days of the year,” said Sarah Bonds, the mall’s marketing director. “People are in vacation mode, and the finish line is in sight.”

The mall, with more than 150 stores, shops and kiosks, is Pierce County’s densest concentration of consumerism.

To accommodate this year’s Christmas rush, its stores are staying open from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. through Monday — two hours earlier and two hours later than usual.

It’s still too early to say for sure how the season will pan out for retailers, Bonds said, but signs look good so far.

“A majority of them seem to be happy with the turnout,” she said. “And shoppers seem to be buying a little more this year. As you can see, lots of shoppers have lots of bags in hand.”

Randy Hume of University Place was at the mall Saturday morning, but he was quick to distance himself from the army of last-minute shoppers surrounding him.

“You don’t wait until the last minute,” he said. “It never helps.”

Hume and his adult son Derek were relaxing in vibrating lounge chairs set up for tired shoppers in the concourse between the Java Jive and Journeys stores.

“I was done a couple of weeks ago,” Hume said. “Today I just picked up a couple little trinkets for the end.”

“If you wait until the last minute, the deals are gone,” he said. “The choices are limited, and there’s just that much more stress.”

This year’s Christmas rush is more intense than usual because of how Thanksgiving lined up on the 2013 calendar, said Keith Burke, manager of the mall’s JCPenney store.

“We have six fewer shopping days this year because Thanksgiving fell on the 28th of the month,” Burke said. “That creates a lot of urgency — not only for the customers but for the retailers, too.”

As the days until Christmas run out, Burke said, he sees a lot more men in the store.

“Women usually make up approximately 80 percent of our shoppers,” he said. “That’s not the case right now.”

“I’ve talked to a lot of customers today who say, ‘I’m just starting my shopping,’”

Thomas Bates of Tacoma was among the men in the store Saturday, browsing through a rack of shirts on the second floor.

“I’d much rather be at home,” he said, “but what are you going to do?”

Postponing Christmas shopping is not an entirely bad idea, Bates said. It can have some strategic advantages.

“Typically around this time you start to see the better prices,” he said, “but it’s a trade-off. The selection is not as good. Sometimes you simply have to drop the bar in terms of what you’re willing to settle for.”

The last Saturday before Christmas is always a hectic day, said Bonds, the mall manager, but for pure desperation shopping, nothing beats Christmas Eve. With just hours until the unwrapping starts, she said, shoppers are charged with adrenaline and the fear of showing up at Christmas empty handed.

“That’s when the real-last minute guys come out,” Bonds said.

“No offense intended,” she said, “but they’re mostly men.”

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693
rob.carson@thenewstribune.com

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